Program Director Spotlight: Dr. Jayne Pelletier, Education Program
Dr. Jayne Pelletier is the Program Director for the Graduate Programs in Education at the College of Graduate and Professional Studies here at the University of New England. In this post, Dr. Pelletier discusses her background, love of education, and imparts some words of wisdom to her faculty and students.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
Sure! I knew early on that I wanted to be a teacher, but I was an adult with small children before I went back to school to earn my Master of Arts in Teaching. After graduation, I taught middle school science and English, then moved to teaching high school, and eventually began teaching night classes for a college in New Hampshire.
I absolutely loved teaching adults at the college level – and I especially loved the fact that my students wanted to make a change in their lives. I found that they were, just by a factor of their age and experience, much more committed to their education. My students were balancing children, aging parents, and jobs, all the while wanting to advance in their careers. I also found it interesting to teach adults because of the depth of life experiences they brought into the classroom.
That’s when I decided that not only did I want to be in education, but I wanted to be teaching adults – so I earned my Ph.D. in Education.
From teaching night classes, I moved into a graduate faculty position in a teacher education program. I still taught students in classes, but I also supervised them in area schools. I found this interesting because I was able to observe my students as they started to apply their theoretical classroom knowledge to real-life classroom situations. In the classroom, critical thinking skills are imperative because theory doesn’t always match practice. You need to be able to bridge that gap.
What drew you to the Program Director position?
What drew me to this position was the fact that the higher I rose in the administrative hierarchy, the more distance there was between me and faculty, and between me and students. I missed working directly with faculty and interacting with students.
In this position, I’m back working with faculty, and I’m back working with adult students again. I love helping people make a difference in their own lives, even as they juggle jobs and kids and aging parents and everything that comes with all of that.
I also find that the scholar-practitioner model here at UNE Online keeps me fresh, and keeps me abreast of what’s current in education.
I’ve essentially come full circle. I have somewhat of a feeling of being back where I started, which was where I wanted to be all along – making a difference.
Can you talk a little bit about the graduate Education program at UNE Online?
First of all, we have a great team. I was very fortunate to be able to carry on the good work of the previous director and assistant director. We also have rigorous curricula for our Ed.D., Master’s in Education, CAGS, and other certificate programs.
While the curriculum is at the heart of the program, what really makes the program stand out is our student-centric approach. Faculty members keep students engaged, and Student Support Specialists ensure students have what they need to succeed. There are also helpful resources like reference librarians with extended online chat hours, and one-on-one tutoring via videoconference through the Student Academic Support Center (SASC). And we can’t forget the Enrollment Counselors who assist students with their applications and ensure that they submit an application that represents the student to their best advantage.
What type of background do your faculty members have?
The majority of our faculty have terminal degrees, and each and every faculty member is credentialed with a master’s degree and a very strong academic background. Each faculty member is also a scholar-practitioner in their field.
What is a scholar-practitioner?
A scholar-practitioner model is one in which instructors are not only academically credentialed, but are actively working within the subject area that they teach.
As scholar practitioners, our faculty are out there in the educational trenches. They are building superintendents, they are principals, they are teachers, and they are support folks in the classroom. As such, they are able to help students bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and applied classroom management. Understanding educational theory is one thing, but teachers must also have the skills to be able to apply theory within their practice.
How do you foster a sense of community among online students?
We do so in several ways. We heavily encourage our faculty to frequently and meaningfully communicate with students through course announcements and course feedback. Office hours are also encouraged as a great way for faculty to interact with students one-on-one or in small groups. Faculty members regularly host video conference sessions and make themselves available to students, either in real time, by phone, or in scheduled drop in meetings.
We also encourage students to actively make a dedicated effort to build a network among the UNE faculty and their co-learners. These student/faculty and peer collaborations help reinforce that the students in their classes, and their faculty quite frankly, are colleagues of theirs.
Do you recommend that students attend graduation?
My absolute favorite time of year is graduation. You can’t help but be proud and happy of what these students have accomplished. Graduate school is not easy – and it’s not supposed to be. They’ve sacrificed time, they’ve sacrificed money, and they’ve put themselves on the line – because sometimes students are reluctant to go back to school. Doubt creeps in, and they wonder if they can handle graduate work. And they have all these other responsibilities.
Graduating with a master’s or a CAGS or an Ed.D. is such an achievement. It doesn’t matter whether it took them two years or 10 years; it was one foot in front of the other. So my very favorite time is seeing them cross the finish line and accomplish that goal.
What is your favorite part of working with students at UNE Online?
I love hearing stories of how this degree or certificate has transformed students’ lives. Sometimes it means a different position, or a leadership position, and sometimes it means that they personally took on something that they didn’t think they could manage. We see students enter the program somewhat tentatively, and are maybe a little nervous, but by graduation, they’re telling you what they think the course should be and who should teach it. The growth that we see is extraordinary. Our students have a real sense of ownership and pride in the program and in themselves.
Any words of wisdom for students?
Always remember that the work you’re doing is very important. And, sometimes it may take some time to recognize how important it is to your students’ lives. You may not know you made a difference until years later when they tell you.
But also, you are leading change – whether it’s in your classroom or in your organization, and that that comes with its own set of challenges. So don’t be discouraged. Know that the work you’re doing is very important.
For more information about our online Graduate Programs in Education:Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) | Education | Education Faculty Spotlight | Graduate Programs in Education | Master of Science in Education | Online Education