The road to a return to higher education was long and winding for Deirdre Linter.
Now that she is enrolled in the Master of Education in Educational Leadership program at William Paterson University, she has found a wide open highway.
“I had always wanted to go back and get a master’s degree in something,” she said. “It opens the job market for you if you go for something specific.”
Linter works full time as an eighth-grade English teacher at Don Bosco Technology Academy in Paterson, New Jersey, and is a single mother to her son, Ethan (13).
Three years ago, the vice principal at her school, Dr. Wanda Kopic, encouraged her to pursue a degree in educational leadership.
“Dr. Kopic was amazing,” Linter said. “She saw something in me. When she was out, she started giving me more responsibilities like running grade-level meetings.”
Once Linter decided to commit, she landed on William Paterson University because it has a partnership with her school district. Her first meeting with program director Dr. Samuel Fancera cemented her decision to pursue educational leadership.
The online portion of the program is especially beneficial to Linter because it allows her the convenience of doing schoolwork around her schedule.
“We have assignments and due dates, but it is very flexible,” she said. “You have assignments due at midnight, but you can hand them in any time before that. It is conducive to being a single working parent.”
The flexibility of the online format made it easy for Linter to teach summer school and bond with her son.
“It fits into your schedule,” she said.
The Apple of Her Eye
Linter was born in Brooklyn and raised on Staten Island. She knew from an early age that she was meant to be an educator.
“I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was 7 years old,” she said. “I liked writing on a chalkboard and thought grading papers was cool. Now, grading papers is probably my least favorite thing to do.
“My sophomore and junior year of high school, I had two amazing women as English teachers. They inspired me and solidified that this is what I wanted to do and English was the subject that I wanted to teach.”
In 2001, Linter graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education and communications from Monmouth University where she was a Kappa Delta Pi inductee. She has been in the classroom ever since.
“As a single mom, I briefly tried to go back to school in a fully online program when my son was an infant,” she said. “That lasted a semester. Part of the problem was I didn’t know what I wanted a master’s degree in. I knew I wanted to stay in education, but I couldn’t dedicate myself to anything.”
Since enrolling at William Paterson University in 2018, Linter continues to expand her knowledge base and grow as an educator. EDLP 6060: Principalship, taught by Dr. Tamika DePass Pipkin, is her favorite course in the curriculum, so far.
“When you take that course, you start to learn what it takes to be a principal,” she said. “With the books Dr. Pipkin used and the way she explained it, you realize that it’s not unmanageable and that you can do it. Even if you don’t become a principal, as an educator you get an appreciation for what they go through.”
Down the Stretch
Although Linter is on track to graduate in May 2021, she is making plans for the future that might include another return to higher education.
“William Paterson is trying to start a doctoral program in educational leadership,” she said. “I sat in on a roundtable discussion over the summer. If it opens up the way they want it to, I think I am going to continue on here.”
In the meantime, Linter hopes to transition into a leadership position once she has a master’s degree under her belt.
“After graduation, I want to take baby steps toward becoming a vice principal or assistant principal to start,” she said. “I also have recent aspirations of maybe working my way up to superintendent, which is shocking to me.”
Linter, who is an English Premier League soccer fan, has had lots of encouragement as she works toward becoming the first person in her immediate family to earn a master’s degree.
“Everybody has been supportive,” she said. “My parents have been trying to get me to go back for years because they knew it was something I wanted to do. My son says, ‘My mom works, but she is also doing homework.'”
What makes the journey extra special is the timing of Linter’s accomplishment: She will graduate with her master’s degree 20 years after she completed her bachelor’s.
“The program has improved my teaching,” she said. “You should definitely have an open mind going in. It helps to be somewhat technology savvy. Give it your best shot. Anyone is capable of doing it if they put their mind to it.”