MINT HILL, NC – Queens Grant High School principal Josh Swartzlander recently obtained the highest credential in education as the school’s new leader during these extraordinary times. It has been a long, five-year quest and is a personal achievement that demonstrates Swartzlander’s individual persistence and perseverance.
Swartzlander obtained his doctoral degree recently from Wingate University. The focus of his dissertation was personalized learning. The title of his dissertation was “Identifying the Essential Components for a Personalized Learning Plan.” It demonstrates the importance of in-classroom teacher instruction, technology, academic space, and equipment – all major resources impacting the education process. Other key components such as working environment, collaboration, resources, academic and curricular course pathways were all seriously and professionally outlined in the 118-page document. As Swartzlander mentioned during the interview, “It could have easily been 150 pages based on all the research obtained.”
The degree allows Swartzlander to obtain a School Superintendent license in the state of North Carolina. Swartzlander has strong beliefs in allowing students to become empowered. He believes it keeps high school-aged students motivated and involved in their education based upon what the goals of the individual student may be after graduation.
Some graduates will be attending a 4-year college; others are more interested in a 2-year degree program in technology, or various other careers. A percentage will pursue trades and apprenticeships; some will enter the workforce, while others may join the military, which offers career and educational opportunities while serving our nation.
Included in his research, he obtained information from teachers, educators, parents, and directly from students. The key question he asked and received direct feedback from the many individuals was simple: “How can we make the school experience better?”
What Swartzlander learned was fascinating. With all the push on technology in education today, it is clearly a secondary factor. It’s important; it should be incorporated into a program, but its role is a supporting one in the learning experience. It’s another tool in the educator’s toolbox to enhance a student’s experience and knowledge.
What Swartzlander found is that there is no substitute for a personalized learning experience with a dedicated teacher in the classroom. This environment gets students directly involved; there are more questions, more open discussion of ideas and thought while building relationships and enhancing the educational experience. “It’s important to allow students to be involved in the learning process,” said Swartzlander.
Many students want to have a program that is flexible based upon individual choices and interests. There must remain a solid core curriculum for all to master. Testing is necessary and is a proven way of measuring a student’s knowledge; however, the students would like to be tasked with the completion of some project or portfolio along with having an opportunity for more elective courses of interest being offered.
Swartzlander learned three key priorities: first, more choices for studnets; second, showing up for school and gaining mastery of course work; third, the completion of a meaningful project to the individual student as it pertains to a particular course.
Approximately 40% to 50% of students are passionate about something while others are still finding their way. Many want to accomplish something important in their lives: to make a positive contribution to society through a career choice, citizenship, and the life they individually select to pursue as adults. This fits in with Swartzlander’s passion of wanting to accomplish something of significance and different, to be a trailblazer in his chosen field as an educator.