Susan Bolen stays busy. She is a Ph.D. candidate in elementary education, an instructional coach at Timothy Road Elementary School and Fowler Drive Elementary School, the mother of two school-age children and a pastor’s spouse. Her career and research interests were born of her own experience as a third-grade classroom teacher. In her first assignment, she received an overload of children with behavioral and academic difficulties. There was minimal peer-support and no assistance from a mentor or administrator. Now, as an instructional coach, Bolen has been able to create a nurturing environment for novice teachers, allowing them to thrive in their first years as professional educators. As a Ph.D. candidate in elementary education, Bolen hopes to direct her research towards new teacher induction—developing comprehensive strategies to keep new teachers in the education ranks. Additionally, she is active in her children’s classrooms, scout troops and extracurricular activities. She is an also an active participant in the work of her husband’s congregation. After graduation, she plans to become an elementary school principal.
Ph.D. in elementary education
University highlights, achievements and awards:
The highlight of my work at the University of Georgia has been to experience the intersection of academia with my professional work as an instructional coach in the Clarke County School District. I have been able to take something from each course and strengthen my work with teachers. That has been an amazing experience. I have also enjoyed developing relationships with like-minded peers and faculty. These relationships, combined with course work, continue to expand my horizons and stretch me professionally.
Carver High School
I am an elementary instructional coach in the Clarke County School District. During the 2006-2007 school year, I worked with teachers at Timothy Elementary and Fowler Drive Elementary Schools. Prior to that, I worked with teachers at Fourth Street Elementary School for five years. I love my work! In Georgia, we are moving away from the Quality Core Curriculum to the Georgia Performance Standards. This shift has been quick and radical. My job is to support teachers as they make changes in their practice that both conform with the GPS and lead to higher student achievement. I do this by co-teaching, leading professional learning, working with teams and individuals and working closely with beginning teachers and/or teachers that are in new assignments.
I chose to attend UGA because...
...I wanted to get a Ph.D. that would enable me to have several career options. I am interested in becoming a building-level principal, working in curriculum at the district level, consulting with school districts and possibly teaching at a small college or university. I did a lot of homework and checked out lots of possibilities. The University of Georgia offered the degree program that I wanted that would help me achieve my career objectives and was practically in my backyard.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
...walk on North Campus with my husband. We like to walk and talk in the cool of the evening taking in all the beautiful landscaping and historic buildings.
When I have free time, I like...
My free time is usually spent with my children and husband. My husband and I follow our children around to all of their events, we walk the neighborhood with our dog, and we all like to read. When I have free time it mostly falls in the summer when we like to go to the neighborhood pool and take family trips.
The craziest thing I've done is...
...pursue a doctoral degree while staying married, working to raise two children and work full-time. If I ever think about this too long, it becomes overwhelming.
My favorite place to study is...
...upstairs in my bedroom. My desk is my paternal grandmother’s pedestal dining room table minus all of the leaves. It is next to a big window that overlooks the front yard. I sit at that little round table and read and study, thinking about how proud my grandmother would be that I have an opportunity to pursue such work.
My favorite professor is...
...Kathy Roulston. While working on qualitative research methods with her, I was able to really hone down my dissertation focus and practice the research-gathering skills that I will need to use. She made learning a pleasure and was always genuinely concerned for her students.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
...my paternal grandmother. She was a joy and very involved with my raising. She never met my children, and I would love to sit outside with her and visit and let the three of them get acquainted.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
...have begun this whole doctoral degree earlier. I really thought this out before applying. Part of the thinking was determining if I could indeed do this level of graduate work while balancing a family and job. My husband believed in me all along. I had to decide if I believed in me.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
...going to the main library and realizing that I had access to electronic journals. When I got my other two degrees, research meant lots of time spent in the library…often in the basement. I was so amazed and grateful that much of my work could be done at home. I wanted to hug the librarian that was working with me once I understood what she was telling me.