As a high school strength and conditioning coordinator, Nick Crouse spends a lot of time focused on physical fitness. He also exercises his brain as a student in the online Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership program at Northwest Missouri State University.
"The field of education is all about continuing to learn and bettering yourself, not only as a teacher to help your students but also to progress your individual career," he said.
"I don't have any intention of getting out of the classroom anytime soon. I am looking down the road at the options available when it is time to leave the classroom. I feel like the administrative side may be one of those."
Crouse graduated from Northwest with a bachelor's degree in physical education in 2013. His familiarity and positive experience with the university is the primary reason he is back to earn another degree.
"I have a passion for the athletics realm," he said. "Down the road, I see myself potentially being an athletic director.
"With a lot of schools in the Midwest, it's not just an athletic director position — it's an athletic director and an assistant principal or dean of students. I knew that I would need to meet that academic realm of the administrative side."
After enrolling in Northwest's online MSEd. in Educational Leadership program, Crouse moved into his current role at Platteview High School in Springfield, Nebraska, in the 2019-20 school year.
"It's been hectic, but it has been unbelievably easy to maneuver and manage the workload of an online program with my job, which has the demands of being a coach," he said. "It's been very manageable."
Getting in Reps
Crouse grew up in Red Oak, Iowa, where he developed a love of athletics as a multi-sport athlete in high school. He was an undergraduate assistant for the Bearcats baseball program while earning his bachelor's degree at Northwest.
"I started as a student manager," he said. "They knew I wanted to be a coach after I graduated, so they gave me some pieces to build my coaching resume. I did some position coaching."
Since Crouse enrolled in the online master's degree program in October 2018, he has seen a difference in his approach with students.
"There are so many life lessons that are applicable in different areas that kids maybe don't understand from a traditional classroom setting," he said. "It's nice being able to build and develop a curriculum and understand those leadership pieces."
Crouse also sees a noticeable difference in how he views himself in the grand scheme of things as an educator and a coach.
"It helps me as a teacher because you see things through a different lens," he said. "It's huge to always evaluate yourself as a teacher, not only from what the students and the administration think of you but what administrators are looking for from teachers, which can be skewed from time to time.
"There is the evaluation process, but why are things on evaluations? What are they looking for when they talk about rigor and student engagement? I am in a different realm because I'm not a traditional classroom teacher, so I can take mine a step further with different teams and different coaches and meeting different demands within a weight room setting."
EDUC 61665: School Law is Crouse's favorite course in the online MSEd. in Educational Leadership program curriculum.
"I have always been interested in the different scenarios that can come up, the problem-solving behind it and how to cover bases and make sure you're doing things the right way," he said.
Reading, spending time with family and supporting the student-athletes at his school hold special meaning for Crouse, who graduated from the master's degree program in May 2020. His sister, SueAnn, also earned a master's degree at Northwest.
While in the program, Crouse received tremendous support from his (then) fiancée, Samantha Shores. The couple tied the knot in May.
"Samantha has been a rock star throughout my time in the program. There were weeks and months where I was doing homework and studying on weekends and she was taking care of things that I couldn't. My family is also excited."
No matter which direction Crouse's career takes in the future, he believes he will be prepared. He said potential students in the educational leadership program should understand the broad range of the material.
"Make sure to do your research," he said. "It's an investment, so make sure that it's something that is going to set you up down the road. Don't be scared or turned away by any components of it.
"When I started looking at the program, I thought, 'Is this going to be geared more toward the principal side of it?' I didn't see myself being a principal, more the assistant principal role."
But Crouse believes that the courses in the master's program helped him gain strength in his career and conditioned him for administration.
"There's value in every single piece of this program, depending on how you look at it as an educator," he said. "There's something that every person can take from it. It's definitely worth the investment."Learn more about Northwest's online MSEd. in Educational Leadership program.
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