Lifelong Learners; educators practice what they preach, pursue advanced degrees

Shravani Page | Staff Writer

Dr. Carmen Scalfaro (left) said that his passion for teaching led him to receive his Ph.D. in education from Miami University.

On December 11, the Wall Street Journal published a column regarding Dr. Jill Biden’s credentials. The column sparked a response not only from Biden’s supporters but also from the nation’s educators.

Joseph Epstein’s “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D” column undermined Biden’s credentials and degree. Dr. Jill Biden has a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Education. However, Epstein argues she shouldn’t even be referred to as “Dr.” due to her lack of a medical degree. With Biden being a direct target of Epstein’s piece, there came the spark of national conversation regarding misogynistic culture within academia.

Since its publication, the column has played into the public perception that educators — along with their credentials — play a small role in society, an opinion furthered by Epstein’s column. Many Mason High School (MHS) teachers and administrators hold multiple degrees — some even Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees.

MHS Principal Bobby Dodd, who holds multiple degrees, including one in law, chose to further his education due to his passion for working with and helping students. Dodd believes that education serves as the “foundation for success.” Dodd’s previous experiences with his family’s law firm, interest in informational technology, and personal growth led him to choose to teach.

Dodd grew up in a family that highly prioritized education. With an initial interest in joining his family’s law firm, Dodd chose to pursue a law degree at John Carroll University in Cleveland. After he landed a job in his family’s firm after university, Dodd began to express interest in computer networking and information technology, leading him to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology (IT). A consequent teaching job in the IT field launched Dodd into a career in education.

“When I was a teacher, I taught a lot of web design classes, computer networking, and intro to engineering and design,” Dodd said. “I soon realized that I could help more students by being an administrator. So, I went to the University of Cincinnati and got a Master’s Degree.”

Dodd found the keys to his aspirations and his success by furthering his education in a variety of areas until discovering a passion for teaching.

Passion comes largely into play for many teachers, from pursuing multiple degrees to seeing that “lightbulb” go off in a student’s head. Dr. Carmen Scalfaro took the idea of being a “life-long learner” to heart as he entered college, got a Ph.D. in education, and chose to become a teacher. Throughout university, Scalfaro chose to improve and pursue a program allowing him to work toward his passions for teaching. Scalfaro said teachers have a direct impact on student’s lives and hopes he can “take kids from one spot and help them grow.”

“There are teachers in this building, who absolutely will do anything for their students,” Scalfaro said. “They love what they teach as well, sometimes they just can’t get enough of it. There are teachers and coaches who are just passionate about helping their kids learn and seeing the light bulbs go on and off. Passion comes out a lot of different ways.”

For Dr. Robyn Jordan, her passion came into play once she had landed a teaching role during graduate school. A former Biology major on the Pre-medical track, Jordan didn’t land a teaching opportunity until she worked as a graduate assistant. Jordan’s “first dose” of teaching came during her graduate studies when she worked with her professor as a graduate assistant. Initially, she had intentions of becoming a college professor, a career primarily focused on research. However, Jordan found her passion for teaching and connecting with students rather than just research. She then entered a licensure program allowing her to pursue teaching.

“I found myself more inclined when it came to interacting with students and helping them,” Jordan said. “After I graduated with a master’s in biology, then I went back and I went through what’s called the alternative educator licensure program.”

The reason Jordan chose to teach, similar to many teachers, was to “positively impact the lives of others.” The role of an educator can often be underestimated. According to Scalfaro, “[teaching] requires a lot of patience, a lot of courage, a lot of persistence.”

According to Jordan, teaching also requires intrinsic motivation. Jordan describes Mason’s teacher culture as supportive and said that “everyone here is doing what they’re passionate about.”

As Epstein’s column underestimates Biden’s qualifications, Scalfaro said “[her qualifications] may skew the public perception of what a First Lady should be.” Throughout the past, America’s “First Lady” has held many faces by various women.

“When you look at somebody like Dr. Jill Biden, and what she accomplished, you see a teacher still,” Scalfaro said. “We don’t hear the same sort of rhetoric from what the current First Lady has. So if the column wants to play that game and look at the pasts of people, then it can go both ways.”

Photo contributed by Dr. Carmen Scalfaro