Student Spotlight: Devon Gallice — CAGS AEL Program
Devon Gallice is a student in the Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Advanced Educational Leadership (CAGS AEL) program here at UNE Online. She is currently a guidance counselor at Dike-Newell School, and is working toward earning her Principal — Building Administrator Certificate (040). We spoke with her recently about her experience at UNE and what it’s like balancing career, family, and school.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself, and what encouraged you to pursue your CAGS AEL?
I had a very non-traditional path towards earning my CAGS AEL. Ever since I was young I knew I wanted to work with kids in some way, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do Education or Psychology. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a teacher or a counselor and work on the clinical side — so I’ve done a blend for a long time now.
Starting my senior year in high school, I had an internship working at a special school for kids with behavioral challenges. I then got my undergraduate degree at Cornell, in Human Development, which allowed me to take psychology classes as well as education classes. After undergrad, I taught abroad in Costa Rica and Spain for a few years, which prompted me to earn a certification to teach English as a foreign language.
After working in the Education field for a bit I decided to go back to school to become a clinical social worker within school settings. First I worked in specialized schools for kids that had emotional and behavioral challenges, and then I held an administrative job within a special purpose private school.
After doing that for a while, I decided that I wanted to focus more on my family. Public school had more attractive hours for me, so I became a school counselor in the RSU 1 School District. I was in the middle school for a year, and then I was at a PreK to Grade 2 school for two years. While I loved being in public school, I really missed the ability to effect change on a higher level. I missed being in a position where I felt like I could look at the school as a system, and really focus on how to make some of those bigger system-wide changes. I wanted to do more.
When I started to take classes at UNE Online I had two little ones — and now I have three little ones — so the online structure has been extremely helpful for me. I have been able to engage with students not only within Maine, but also from a distance, and I enjoy being able to do a lot of learning while also supporting my family and doing my job. I’ve really appreciated the online approach to learning that UNE Online has been able to give me.
How does getting your CAGS AEL support your career goals?
Because I was at a special purpose private school, I’d already been functioning in an administrative role without having all the coursework behind me. These CAGS AEL courses are not only required for my certification, but they have given me the theoretical and foundational knowledge behind what I had been doing.
For example, I loved my Special Ed Law class. I felt like it really gave me a chance to see some challenges that happen within the school setting, and through the case studies we were really able to understand how the law dictates what steps you should take. I also loved my School Law class, because again, I learned more information about the legal underpinnings for many decisions that are made within the school system. Those were two classes that I found especially helpful in becoming more informed about how to make the best choices for students. All of my coursework so far has made me feel a lot more comfortable about going into my first administrative role in a public school setting.
How did you decide on UNE?
There are actually three teachers at my school who are taking classes through UNE Online getting their Master’s. They spoke very highly of the program, and I found through my research online that many other people felt the same way. The UNE program appeared to very closely align with my goals, and have a high level of interaction with instructors. Now that I’m in the program, I’ve found that I agree with all the positive reviews. My instructors have been extremely responsive, and the online format has given me an opportunity to interact with people not just in Maine, but all over the world — which is pretty cool.
What’s it like, getting your CAGS AEL?
The CAGS AEL is the program to take to earn your Building Administrator certificate. It’s a total of ten courses, and my school pays for three courses a year. So it’ll be about two years by the time I’m completely finished. I’m halfway through now.
I’ve taken the classes that I need to become an Assistant Building Administrator, and I still have three classes left to be a Building Administrator. I have had a wonderful experience with both of my Student Support people, first Jason Asdourian, and now Brendan Parsons. They have been great, and whenever I had a question or need some advice on class options, they have been very responsive.
An exciting career opportunity came up last year in my district, and I was able to work with Brendan to change my course plan so that I could get the classes that I needed for the Assistant Building Administrator completed first. By the end of the whole program, I will have all the classes completed to get my full Building Administrator, but the first half of the program allows me to become the Assistant Building Administrator.
Recently, I worked with Brendan to find a plan that will work with my new schedule. I have this new job that is a big step up and a big role, so I’ve been able to work with him to slow my path down a bit, and push some of my courses back, which has been really helpful.
Have you found a sense of community within your courses?
I have, and I think it’s primarily because of the discussion boards. In every class I’ve taken, making sure that you are reading people’s discussions and responding has been a really big part of the class. Of course, that sense of community is stronger in some classes more than others, but there is always a sense of community there.
I feel that I learn a lot from the instructor teaching the class, but I also learn a lot from other students taking the class.
If there’s one thing you would want a potential student to know before starting this program, what would it be?
I would want to share how applicable the learning is. When you are already working as a teacher or a school counselor, you may wonder how what you’re going to learn could possibly help you in your job. But I have found that in every class that I have taken, I have learned a lot of things that I was able to immediately apply to my job.
Any final words of wisdom?
To anyone who is thinking about whether they should or should not go back to school, I would definitely suggest that they go for it. It’s been a wonderful experience for me. I’ve enjoyed every single class that I’ve taken, and I’ve learned so much!
If you are interested in the online Graduate Programs in Education or if you would like more information on UNE Online’s MSEd, PMC, CAGS or Ed.D. programs, please reach out to an Enrollment Counselor at (800) 994-2804 or via email at email@example.com.
Or, if you’re ready to apply, fill out your online application at go.une.edu/apply.
More Education program information can be found by clicking http://go.une.edu/graduate-degree-education-programs.