With more than a decade of experience as a high school coach and teacher, Doug Lum knew plenty about having a lot on his plate.
Then, he added another helping.
Lum earned a Master of Education in Administration online from Lamar University while he balanced coaching, teaching and helping his wife, Monica, raise their children, Shane and Abby.
“There’s no other way I could have done it,” Lum said. “I got into the education field in 2002, so for 10 or 11 years of my career, people kept telling me, ‘Hey, you need to go pursue this.’ Without an online format, there’s no way that I could have had the time to go to class. I looked into the weekends, going once a month for eight hours. As a coach, there’s no way I could have done that consistently; it would have taken me 10 years to get done.”
Instead, it took Lum 18 months to earn his graduate degree and a Program Certificate in Principal Education online, which helped him land his current job as assistant principal at Jourdanton Junior High, south of San Antonio.
“People are like, ‘You did that in 18 months?’,” Lum said. “I say, ‘There’s no rest for the wicked. You’ve got to get after it. If you put your head down and work hard, you can get it done.'”
A New Game Plan
Lum, who grew up playing multiple sports in Poteet, Texas, originally wanted to become a sports journalist after majoring in communications with a concentration in technical writing at the University of Texas San Antonio.
“I thought that would be cool,” Lum said. “That was my dream as a kid, to be a sports writer. I dabbled into it a little bit. Before I really pursued my degree, I did some radio and stuff like that, wrote for some small-town papers. I realized there was no money there, and you can’t survive.”
So, Lum got an emergency certification and immediately went into teaching English and coaching basketball, football and track and field at Natalia ISD after graduating from UTSA. He also did a stint at McMullen County ISD, where he was the head coach of the boys’ varsity basketball team. Lum was then hired as the girls’ varsity basketball head coach at Jourdanton.
“Everything was going good in the fall of 2013 when we were in the middle of basketball season, but my kids were getting older,” Lum said. “I finally bit the bullet. A friend of mine [Shane Wilton], who I coached with way back in Natalia, got his degree through Lamar University. He recommended it, and I started in with it in the spring of 2014. I just worked away at it. One year was pretty hard for me. I was still the girls’ head basketball coach, taking a full load and during hard courses.”
Wilton also gave Lum a game plan to earn his degree while coaching and teaching.
“He said, ‘Man, you can just do it. It’s inexpensive, and you set your own hours,'” Lum said. “He was also a basketball coach when he did it. He said, ‘Work on Wednesdays and Sundays.’ It was hard being a football fan and stuff like that, but I just had to keep the TV off until I got all of my work done.”
A Tough Decision
In addition to adding so much to his workload, the decision to leave coaching in May 2016 was even more difficult because Abby was about to be a senior on the basketball team, which meant he wouldn’t coach her during her final season of high school basketball. Shane is a student at Texas Tech University who is majoring in communications.
“They were behind me 100 percent,” Lum said. “We all sat down as a family when the decision came to get out of the coaching aspect of it and into administration and talked about how this was the opportunity we were waiting for. It’s kind of nice for her, too, as a senior to not be the coach’s daughter.”
Lum said he’s happy with the decision he made but that he absolutely misses coaching.
“When I got here to this district, the girls’ basketball program was struggling,” he said. “I spent a lot of years building it. The last two years of my tenure, we won the district championship. They had not won district in like 15 years or something. We built it from not much to winning back-to-back district titles. Then, we had basically the entire team coming back this year. They’re going to have a really good season, but I had this opportunity arise. Sometimes you just have to do what’s best for your family.”
Fortunately, he has a mentor at his new job who really knows the ropes.
“Our assistant principal moved to our central office, so this job came open,” Lum said. “I interviewed with our principal [Robert Rutkowski], who has been the principal at our junior high — this is his 28th year. I couldn’t ask for a better first administrative job and getting to learn from somebody.”
Laying the Foundation
Lum said his Master of Education in Administration helped give him some valuable insight to the most important part of his first administrative position.
“I really liked the courses that focused on the human resources aspect of it, because I feel like you can learn the nuts and bolts as far as the curriculum and all of that stuff you need to know for this job, but dealing with people and managing people is really the important aspect of this job,” he said.
Lum said if he can manage to earn a degree online with so many other things going on his life, anybody can make it work.
“I would say that before you get into it that you correctly know how to budget your time,” he said. “That’s basically the toughest aspect of it. And to keep an open mind about it. The discussion forums, the online group discussions and the videos are probably the most helpful things you’re going to get out of the program because you get to pick other people’s brains, and then you realize most people out there are going through the same situations as you.”
Lum said after he gets a year of experience as an assistant principal, he plans to go back and earn a Program Certificate in Superintendent Education online at Lamar University.
“I’m proud of it,” Lum said. “People ask me where I got my master’s, and I say, ‘Lamar University. They have an extensive online program you can do. The flexibility really drew me to it.”
Learn more about the Lamar University online M.Ed. in Administration program.