Daniel Taylor thoroughly prepared for the role of principal, but he never arrived on set for scene one.
“When I got my first master’s degree in higher education administration, I was pushing hard to become a principal or an assistant principal,” he said. “Then, I saw the grit and grime that they have to get into daily.”
So, Taylor opted for a different casting call for a school counseling production.
“To me, counselors are an extension of teachers,” he said. “You’re really not in the classroom anymore, but you basically do the same thing because you help students with problems. That was one of my deciding factors to switch to counseling after I did the principal internship.”
Taylor, a speech and theater teacher and performing and visual arts chair at Skyline High School in Dallas, is enrolled in Lamar University’s Master of Education in School Counseling online program. He is on track to graduate in December 2018.
When his mother asked why he was going back to school for a second master’s degree, and not a Ph.D., he told her that he didn’t want to write a dissertation.
“My friends and family have been very supportive,” he said.
In 2016, Taylor graduated with a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Texas A&M-Commerce, where he made both the dean’s list and the president’s list. He started the Lamar University degree program one month later. Even though Taylor is still enrolled, he applies what he’s learning about his future position to his current position.
“When I did my practicum last semester, I was working with our lead counselor at Skyline doing a lot of things that we do in theater, like role playing,” he said. “The lead counselor had me do some of the things that I will do in counseling, like giving students an opportunity to practice what they want to say to someone like their parents.”
East Texas Roots
Taylor grew up in Daingerfield, Texas, where he developed a passion for theater and speech as a teenager.
“At the end of my junior year of high school, we were auditioning for the senior year production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Taylor said. “I got the lead role in that one act play, plus I had done oratory events throughout high school. I fell in love with it.”
Taylor graduated with a Bachelor of Science in theater and speech communication from Texas A&M-Commerce in 2001. He taught at Pittsburg High School, in East Texas, for nearly three years before moving to the Dallas Independent School District in 2008. The 2018-19 school year will be his 14th in the classroom.
Once Taylor narrowed down his choices for online M.Ed. in school counseling programs, he chose Lamar University primarily because of affordable tuition and speedy time to completion.
“At Lamar University, the classes are more affordable,” he said. “Plus, Lamar has five-week classes that are a lot more fast-paced so you finish a lot quicker. I started the program in June 2016. The professors are also very responsive to you when you have a question. Some of them even give us their personal cell phone numbers to call or text them if they don’t email back right away.”
The 100-percent-online format allowed Taylor to focus on schoolwork any time of the day. He typically averaged between 15 and 17 hours per week on the online graduate degree program.
“A lot of times when the kids were doing their individual work, practicing their speeches or working on skits, that was downtime for me to sit down and possibly do a discussion board or other schoolwork,” he said. “I go home after work and designate blocks of time to get my classwork done. Time management was a big factor. The flexibility of the program was also a big help.”
Taylor’s three favorite courses in the online M.Ed. in School Counseling curriculum were: CNDV 5320: Multicultural Counseling, CNDV 5312: Group Counseling Theories and Techniques and CNDV 5311: Individual Counseling Theories and Techniques.
“I liked the group and individual counseling courses a lot because they showed me how to work one on one with a child and work with groups,” he said. “Multicultural Counseling added working with people of different races, genders and sexual orientations.”
Take a Bow
Taylor, a first-generation college student, is focusing on his goal of graduating and planning a trip to Beaumont at the end of 2018 to walk the stage, but he also has an eye on the future.
“The M.Ed. in School Counseling will definitely open up some opportunities for me,” he said. “I was looking on the DISD website recently, and there are 34 counseling positions.”
Taylor, who still occasionally acts in community theater productions and loves traveling with his family, knows switching roles to counseling steered him in the right direction. Earning an online degree from an East Texas university suited Taylor just right.
“For anyone who is a non-traditional student, online is the best way because it’s basically setting your own schedule,” he said. “Like me, having a full-time job, you work with that flexibility. The Lamar professors work with you and understand that you have a life outside of the academic environment. I know a lot of people like the traditional classroom and having that professor right in their face. For me, online worked best.”