Long before Derek West embarked on his education career, he saw firsthand the impact a teacher can have on students.
“My family is full of educators,” he said. “My grandparents were teachers. My mom was a teacher and a reading specialist. My dad, Steve, was a principal. As you go around town, people talk about the impact he had on them. It inspired me.”
After graduating from the online Master of Education in Administration program at Lamar University in 2017, West became an assistant principal at Canyon Independent School District in his hometown.
“I wanted to get into administration and be a principal one day,” he said. “The higher up you move in an organization, the more people you can influence, and the more students you can affect. That was my goal.
“I recognized I was having a good impact on the 120 kids I was assigned every year. I was in a school of 1,600 kids. I knew that as a principal, I could put in place policies and procedures that would help all students.”
Now, West leads instructional leadership at the Region 16 Education Service Center in Amarillo. He was an assistant principal for two years before moving into his current role.
“At the end of 2020 an opportunity arose to join the Region 16 Instructional Leadership team,” he said. “Now, I train new administrators. I also lead a first-time campus administrator academy for administrators during their first year.”
West attended the University of Texas for three years in Austin, but he came home and finished his bachelor’s degree in general studies at West Texas A&M University in 2012.
“I chose Lamar because I was looking for something online that I could do in the evenings,” he said. “Lamar’s program was the most affordable when comparing the time to completion with other programs. It was the fastest, most affordable and 100% online. It worked out well.”
At the time, West and his wife, Amy, had a newborn daughter. Now, they have two daughters — Lena (5) and Rosalyn (3).
“Doing the degree program online was pretty manageable,” he said. “I had to do work on the weekends and in the evenings, but I never felt overwhelmed until I was trying to get my final paper done at the end — that was a little hectic.
“I would definitely recommend the master’s degree program. Looking back, I would do it again at Lamar.”
West had such a good experience in the online M.Ed. in Administration program that his wife also graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Lamar University in 2021.
“She graduated in May and started teaching a couple of weeks ago, going through Texas Teachers of Tomorrow for her teacher certification,” West said.
“We both walked in our commencement ceremonies. It was fun and definitely worth it. I started at the University of Texas, so it was a missed dream not to graduate from there with my bachelor’s degree. When I went through Lamar, that was a high moment.”
All for One
West especially enjoyed interacting with his classmates and professors while enrolled at Lamar University.
“Having a chance to get online and talk with professors and other students and sharing ideas was very beneficial,” he said. “Even in an online format, we had ways to connect. If you seek it out, you have even more interaction.”
In fact, West still keeps up with several of his classmates through a Facebook page for graduates from his cohort. He is still using the information he learned at Lamar University.
“I liked the classes where we did research,” he said. “I learned how to read studies and factor them and refer back to them. Also, how to conduct a research project.”
West plans to return to college to begin a doctoral degree in 2022. He has learned from previous experience that there’s no time like the present to go back to school.
“Do it,” he said. “It’s never going to get easier. Especially if you are a professional with a family, waiting two years isn’t going to give you more time to get it done. Do it sooner rather than later. Set a schedule.
“I did schoolwork Tuesdays and Thursdays in the evenings from 7:00 to 10:00. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would do four or five hours each day. You have to block the time off and try to make it work. You need people to support you, too. I couldn’t have done it without the help of my wife and parents.”
Learn more about Lamar University’s online M.Ed. in Administration program.