When Annette Bennett (Ed.D. ’17) decided to pursue her Ed.D. in leadership at the VCU School of Education, she was impressed by the program’s focus on preparing students and professionals for a wide variety of organizational leadership positions. As the new superintendent of Appomattox County Public Schools (ACPS), she recommends the program to any student or professional who wants to be a leader in their field.
A few years ago when Bennett first decided to pursue her doctoral degree, she had thought about someday teaching at the university level. She had begun her career in Campbell County, Va., in 1985 as a special education teacher, and spent the next 27 years in a variety of administrative positions with ACPS, most recently as director of curriculum and instruction.
Several of her colleagues had completed SOE’s Ed.D. in leadership program, and they spoke highly of it. Bennett was immediately drawn to the program’s focus on leadership – not just educational leadership, but leadership in general.
She began the three-year program in 2014, commuting to Richmond every Thursday evening and occasionally on Saturdays. She quickly noticed how the program broadened her perspective on K-12 education.
“I still keep in touch with many of my professors and fellow students, to get their perspectives on how best to educate children. The networking has been such a huge, lasting strength of the program.”
“Most of the 24 people in our cohort were from Central Virginia, but suburban counties like Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico are very different geographically and demographically from a rural county like Appomattox. I was able to learn and appreciate the unique challenges that those counties face, and they were able to learn from us,” she said.
She also appreciated the collegial and practical nature of the program. “On almost every assignment, there was an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues. We were grouped in teams, and we worked on projects that were relevant to our jobs. That made a huge difference,” she said.
Not long after Bennett earned her degree, Appomattox County’s school superintendent announced her retirement, effective July 1, 2018. Bennett had never considered a superintendent’s position before, but when this one became available, she decided to apply. Her unique blend of experience and education were strong considerations when the School Board named Bennett the county’s new superintendent this past May.
“I would never have applied anywhere but Appomattox. It’s where my heart and home are, and it’s where my career has mostly been. It was the right time for it all to happen,” she said.
Bennett recommends the school’s Ed.D. in leadership program to any student or professional who wants to become a leader in their field. The benefits last well beyond graduation.
“The instructors are very knowledgeable and current in their field of expertise. In fact, I still keep in touch with many of my professors and fellow students, to get their perspectives on how best to educate children. The networking has been such a huge, lasting strength of the program.”