Heather Schild learned a lot about leadership and the responsibilities of being a school principal while she studied for her master’s degree in education (MAEd) at North Central College.
For two years while enrolled in North Central’s principal-preparation program, Schild worked as an Instructional Coordinator in Naperville Community Unit School District 203 and reported directly to Naperville North High School Principal Kevin Pobst.
“I thought North Central’s program was rigorous and provided a lot of authentic experiences,” Schild says.
Schild is one of six candidates who are the first to complete North Central’s principal-preparation program since it was redesigned. It was among the first in Illinois to receive state approval in 2012. The state phased out the Type 75 administrative certificate and toughened the requirements for institutions of higher education that prepare future school leaders.
Candidates like Schild gain extensive field experience, thanks in part to the strength of the College’s formal partnerships with diverse and high-quality school districts like those in Naperville. Schild taught English to high school students before she began pursuing her graduate degree. Her internship expanded her experiences and skills.
“In Heather’s case, she was asked to redesign a program that had been in place for 15 years, staff the new program and plan for professional development,” Pobst says. “There is no substitute for that kind of experience.”
The internships experienced by North Central graduate students reflect state and federal commitments to toughen education standards. North Central’s program has earned a reputation for its tough standards, and hiring officers consistently seek out North Central graduates.
“I can understand how the rigor of North Central’s program should weed out some of the candidates who aren’t really qualified to become principals,” says Brian Valek, principal of Naperville’s Kennedy Junior High School.
Principals like Pobst, Valek and others served as mentors to candidates like Schild as they completed internship requirements as part of their graduate studies. Candidates perform their extensive, full-time resident internships during summers so as not to disrupt their teaching responsibilities during the school year.
“Our graduate students spend time at a diverse range of school settings, from elementary schools to high schools with varied socio-economic populations,” says Kristine Servais, coordinator of the College’s master of arts in education degree program. “They deal firsthand with parents of students and gain experience in such issues as confidentiality or DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) investigations.”
In addition to its partnership with Naperville’s School District 203, North Central College partners with Aurora-based Indian Prairie School District 204, Schaumburg School District 54, Bloomingdale-based Community Consolidated School District and East Aurora School District 131.
“The preparation North Central College did for its students caused us to take our roles as mentors very seriously,” Pobst says. “We care about this relationship. One benefit is that it helps us identify excellent candidates for principal and assistant principal positions in our district.”