M.Ed. Alum Named Assistant Principal of the Year

Written byFaith Derouen

“Everything that we did in both the master’s and the doctorate program was authentic and connected to our schools, our districts. We didn't have to dream up some idealistic hypothetical school. We were doing real work, and it was relevant work.”

Headshot of Tiffini Brigola
Tiffini Brigola
Graduation Year
M.Ed. Educational Leadership
Crowley, LA

In the world of education, there are those who simply navigate, and then there are those who lead with purpose and passion. 

Tiffini Brigola's recent recognition as Assistant Principal of the Year by the Louisiana Association of Principals firmly places her in the latter group, highlighting her dedication to shaping futures.

“It's a very weird feeling because I think I just go to work and do what I do. It's a great honor. I do have to say that I'm just surprised that I made it to that level of recognition,” she says.

With a trifecta of degrees earned from UL Lafayette, Brigola’s journey serves as a testament to her longstanding commitment to academic excellence.

Destined to Teach

Brigola laid the groundwork for a career in education early on.

“Ever since I was a young child, I played school with the other kids in my neighborhood, and I was always the teacher. I think I always had a natural gift for it,” she says.

Despite her aptitude for teaching, Brigola wasn’t always convinced that was the route for her.

“Graduating from high school, I was in denial. I went to UL Lafayette and majored in psychology, because I knew that I was interested in working with other people. Listening, guidance, that's what I felt like I wanted to do,” she explains. “But while I was in undergrad, I was substituting part-time, and I was able to see that this is where my passions lie. This is where I would make the most impact.”

Brigola decided to change her major to general studies and recenter her focus on becoming an educator.

“The dean assisted me in building my own curriculum that included what I had already earned in credits, but also helped move me forward in the direction of an alternative education certification,” she says. “So I graduated in General Studies and then returned to UL Lafayette for my certification in Secondary English Education, and then I became a teacher.”

Mastering New Heights

After a decade in the classroom, Brigola began craving more development. That’s when she set her sights on the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from UL Lafayette.

“It was a professional choice; I had been teaching for quite a while and it just seemed like a natural progression to pursue higher education in my field,” she says. “I chose Educational Leadership because there were many avenues that I could have pursued following graduation.” 

The hybrid format of the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership allowed Brigola to tackle graduate studies head-on while balancing work and family priorities. 

“I had one daughter in high school and another who hadn't started school yet. I was juggling teaching, family, and graduate school, but the format of the program helped me tremendously,” she recalls. “I was able to be present at home and work on my graduate studies at the same time.”

Thanks to virtual collaboration and online resources, Brigola had the tools she needed to stay organized throughout her time in the M.Ed. program.

“You worked in teams with other members of your cohort, and the technology was what made that work. Because we were able to use shared documents, I think that that's what made collaboration easier,” she says. 

Setting the Standard

Brigola didn’t stop when she earned her master’s degree in 2017; she saw it as a stepping stone.

Encouraged by her professors, she leapt into the Doctor of Education program and immediately began applying her education to real-world scenarios.

“Everything that we did in both the master’s and the doctorate program was authentic and connected to our schools, our districts,” she says. “We didn't have to dream up some idealistic hypothetical school. We were doing real work, and it was relevant work. We were creating real school improvement plans, real diversity plans, and being advised to work with our school administrators and supervisors to utilize the things that we created.”

Earning her Ed.D. from the University in 2023, Brigola recognizes the unique advantage of UL Lafayette’s program over others.

“Through the program, we were able to do real work while we were learning, and I think that gave the UL Lafayette students an advantage,” she says. “When I run across other people who have gotten their certifications or degrees fully out of state, I find they lack a little bit of that authentic connection.”

As she continues her journey as assistant principal at Gueydan High School, Brigola aims to make a difference in the lives of her students and inspire them to pursue higher education opportunities.

“I talk up the university life a lot to high school students there,” she says. “I help them see what university life would look like for them, explain how different colleges are from high school and encourage them to apply.”

As Brigola looks ahead, she remains committed to advancing the field of education, building upon the research into effective school leadership that she conducted throughout her graduate studies.

“I do hope to earn a principal position soon, but I also still enjoy conducting research and writing. The dissertation process was a struggle, just because it took a lot of time, but it was worth it,” she says. “The knowledge gained and my contribution to education research was meaningful to me, so I would like to continue to do that type of work.”

Learn more about the hybrid M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

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