Amanda Whatley graduated from Gardner-Webb University with an Ed.D. in curriculum and instruction and currently works as an ELA teacher for a high school in North Carolina. With more than a decade of experience under her belt, we asked Amanda to share with us her experience at Gardner-Webb University. Hear what she had to say.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
I am often asked why I chose education as a career, what inspired me. A classroom is one of those spaces where all can be made to feel welcome, included, and important. Caring and compassionate teachers fostered the inclusion I felt in the classroom. Feeling included and important built confidence in me and motivated my learning. I became an educator so that I could do the same for others: create a safe and inclusive environment so that students might thrive.
Why did you choose Gardner-Webb University for your doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction?
When I began my search for a doctoral program, I had to consider family, employer, and financial obligations. Gardner-Webb offered a hybrid program that allowed me to complete coursework both online and face-to-face. The hybrid cohort provided the flexibility to enjoy my coveted family time and continue to teach full-time, all while not creating a financial burden. Additionally, I wanted to be inspired. As I read through the description of the program, I was struck by Gardner-Webb’s commitment to “ethical, inspired leadership”.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Gardner-Webb University and how do you use them today?
Through the curriculum and instruction doctorate program I developed a critical understanding of instructional theory and its practical application to the classroom. Through the program I gained the skills necessary to assess a need within my school and with my cohort members developed a professional learning module to meet those needs. The module “Mentoring Relationships” continues to be used at my home school as a training tool for new mentors and beginning teachers. It was also selected for publication on Gardner-Webb’s IMPROVE platform. The ability to critically reflect on my practice not only improved my skills in the classroom but also provided me with confidence to engage thoughtfully with my colleagues about their practice.
How has your doctorate degree impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you would like to attain in the future?
A doctorate in curriculum and instruction has afforded me the opportunity to act in a leadership capacity at my home school. In addition to teaching, I have taken a role as a building-level Teacher Leader. In this position I am able to provide professional development at both the building and district level. My degree also led me to higher education as an adjunct professor in an educator preparation program. Working with educators at the graduate level provides me a unique opportunity to continue to affect change in the classroom in a new capacity.
What was a challenge you faced during your doctorate program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
I lost my father to cancer during the first year of my doctorate program. The trauma of that loss was tremendous, and I doubted if I could continue my studies. The compassion extended to me by my professors and fellow cohort members gave me strength to endure. Collectively, they encouraged me through my grief and supported me through the daunting days that followed. The prayers and love extended sustained and carried me through to the end. I found more than colleagues and mentors during my time at Gardner-Webb; I found a family.
What was your biggest takeaway from your curriculum and instruction doctorate program?
The curriculum and instruction doctorate taught me much about myself. I gained belief in my own expertise and a confidence to lead others in the field. My newfound confidence helped me take more risks and think more creatively about curriculum development and delivery. My students are more engaged and active in their learning, and they are successful as a result. Beyond the classroom, the skills and application practice provided by the program encouraged me to present at national conferences, something I would not have considered before my time at Gardner-Webb.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the Ed.D. curriculum and instruction degree program at Gardner-Webb University?
I encourage anyone wanting a richer understanding of curriculum development and delivery to consider the curriculum and instruction doctorate program at Gardner-Webb University. The program offers an opportunity to build your own capacity as a collaborator and leader and think critically and reflectively about your own practice. Skill development is not all you can expect from the curriculum and instruction doctorate program. Program leaders create a space that welcomes, includes, and encourages each and every candidate. The support provided throughout the program is unmatched by any other program in which I have participated.