As an educator with eight years of administrative experience under his belt, Austin Purvis knows the importance of preparedness.
That led the Hardin-Central Elementary School principal to enroll in the Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) – Superintendent online program at Northwest Missouri State University in January 2021.
"My superintendent, Trey Cavanah, has been pushing me to get a higher degree," he said. "He has always told me that he doesn't plan on staying here forever; he is going to move on to bigger and better things when he gets his doctorate. He wants me to step into that role.
"I have also talked to some of the school board members, and they would like for me to get the degree so that if something does happen with my superintendent, they would like for me to apply for the superintendence."
In his sixth school year in his current role, Purvis also has a family at home. He and his wife, Christina, have three daughters — Lydia (9), Adeline (4) and Claire (2).
"There is no possible way I could go back to school if it wasn't for the online format," he said. "It works well. I looked at a couple of different schools that had a hybrid where you have to meet once a month. Going to Northwest was half the price of other colleges, so it was a no-brainer to do it completely online."
Follow the Leader
Purvis is from Oelwein, Iowa, where he developed a keen interest in teaching long before choosing a career.
"I was pretty much led to it," he said. "I was born to teach. I had a stay-at-home mom who babysat and had young kids around. I always had an interest in teaching younger kids. Kindergarten, first, second and third grade are my cup of tea."
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Graceland University in 2009, Purvis taught first and second grade before adding a master's degree in administration from the University of Central Missouri in 2013 and spending two years as an assistant principal.
"This is the first time I have done online courses," he said. "I picked it up quickly. They have been gracious at Northwest. When I first started, I called the office a couple of times. They were so quick to get back to me and get things done. It helped."
Because Purvis is already a principal, he takes the information he is learning in the program back to his school, which is about 50 miles east of Kansas City, Missouri.
"When I am going through the classes, I can immediately apply what I know," he said. "I can very much use those aspects of leadership within my own building. I like the discussion boards. When I do them, I say, 'That's a good idea' or 'I need to do that.'"
Purvis is still in the early stages of the educational specialist program, but he is especially looking forward to the School Finance course.
"It's something that I don't know a lot about," he said. "My superintendent does most of the finances. He pulls me in every once in a while and shows me things, but I would like to know a little more in depth about what goes into school finance."
Earning a degree online while preparing to take on a superintendent position is a win-win for Purvis, who enjoys hunting, fishing and working with his church in his free time.
"I live in a different place than I work, so I could also potentially go to my hometown to work," he said. "The administrators there all have their ed specialist degrees. If I apply there when a position opens up, the degree is going to help me, for sure."
Purvis also has the support of his family while he continues his education in the online Ed.S. – Superintendent program while also making time for them.
"My wife knew I needed to do it," he said. "She recognizes that it's a little more strenuous on her, and she appreciates me doing it online. I can do schoolwork after the kids go to sleep, and I am not out two or three nights a week for classes."
Christina's concerns about the impact of Purvis' graduate studies on their family life were set to rest before long. The online format enabled him to keep studies afloat alongside everything else.
"When I am sitting on my bed doing my homework, Lydia will come up. I will talk to her and tell her what I am doing with my assignments," he said.
With a few months of the program under his belt, Purvis sees the value of preparing to take on any challenges that come his way as an online student.
"You have to be ready to make the commitment and put forth the effort and the work," he said. "It's up to you what you want to learn and how much effort you want to put into the online program.
"Also, make sure to do those discussions and put forth the effort for your own learning. Doing that will help you to be a better leader."
Learn more about Northwest's Educational Specialist – Superintendent online program.
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