High school English teacher.
And now, principal.
Throughout her career as an educator, Jade Calais, who recently stepped into a new position as principal at Youngsville Middle School, has held several positions, gaining more responsibility — and two additional degrees — with time.
But Calais isn’t just “climbing the ladder”; her career goal is much greater than that.
“I need to keep climbing, and not for the sake of the climb, but for the sake of impacting kids and staff on a greater level,” she says.
That desire to make more of an impact began with earning an M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction online from UL Lafayette. For Calais, earning an M.Ed. opened the door to more opportunities, including a Doctor of Education and a leadership role in her school, and a more well-rounded understanding of K-12 education and the issues impacting it.
Why Earn an M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction online?
Calais began her career in education as a teacher for Lafayette Parish School System, later becoming a school librarian. It was at that time that a friend of Calais, who had worked as an educational consultant for LPSS previously, advised her of the growing impact that instructional coaches can make on their campuses.
With that advice in mind, Calais did some research on graduate programs and came across UL Lafayette’s M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction online.
While Calais wasn’t necessarily looking for an online program, she knew she needed a program close to home and easy to attend.
“I had just had a baby, and I was working full time,” she says. “Commuting or moving, that just wouldn’t work for me. I couldn’t just move my life. My job was here.”
“I looked to UL Lafayette, and it just so happened that they were starting this online program. I knew I wanted to be more help to other teachers, and this program would give me the best of both worlds. I could still be with my students, but all the practices I was putting in place, I could also share with my peers.”
Success in the M.Ed. Program
In many ways, too, completing the M.Ed. program was just a way for Calais to push herself to keep learning.
“I like to learn, and going to school gives me a structure and time that forces me to do it,” she says. “I can always tell myself my goal is to learn something new today, but life happens, and usually, I’d end up saying, ‘I don’t have time.’ The program forced me to prioritize learning.”
And as a full-time educator during the day, she had to be flexible about when she got her work done.
“There were some late nights, early mornings, and a lot of weekends that I spent doing work,” she says.
Luckily, she had a professional and personal support system.
“When I did the master’s program, I started with a friend and a dear colleague of mine,” she says. “We were able to go through the journey together, and at that time, we just so happened to work together. We were able to take what we were learning and go back to our job and instantly apply that information, that knowledge, and start to affect change where we were.”
Calais’ favorite part of the program? Getting to soak up all sorts of insightful knowledge.
“I think that I would be a career student if that were a possibility,” Calais says. “People still jokingly ask me, ‘Are you done with school?’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t like to remain stagnant. I like to grow.”
The Next Career Steps
Not surprisingly, for Calais, the online M.Ed. was just the beginning of much growth to come and a passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Calais credits her final capstone course in the program with introducing her to the social justice issues impacting education.
She also credits Dr. Peter Sheppard, who now serves as Associate Dean of Research & Strategic Initiatives and Executive Director of the Center for Excellence in Education (CEE), for consistently pushing her to do more and do better, even after she finished the M.Ed. program.
“Dr. Sheppard is an asset to UL Lafayette,” she says. “Sometimes, it feels like colleges are separate from the communities they serve, but Dr. Sheppard is so instrumental in connecting UL Lafayette’s College of Education with the world of K-12 education.”
Dr. Sheppard reached out to Calais directly encouraging her to go back to school at UL Lafayette to earn her Ed.D. degree. She graduated from the Ed.D. program earlier this year.
“There are so many people who don't get certain opportunities just due to parts of their identity—LGBTQ people, people of color—but as a Black female, my Education professors, Dr. Matthew Green and Dr. Valin Jordan, opened the door and gave me conference presentation and publication opportunities that I don't think I would have gotten without them taking the steps that they did to assist me,” she says.
And as a now two-time graduate of the College of Education & Human Development, Calais hopes that the next generation of educators are empowered to make a difference in the same way her professors empowered her.
In addition to her role in K-12 public education, Calais has taught as an adjunct instructor at the University, covering courses like Children’s Literature and Teaching in a Diverse Society.
“When you learn new information in the program, apply it, and don’t ever feel like you still have to default to what the norm is because of the way it always has been,” she advises current and future students. “Don’t be afraid to have a vision. Don’t be afraid to enact that vision.”