Part three of a four-part series featuring Angela Rush, Education Systems Improvement concentration.
Angela Rush has worked in a variety of positions throughout her career as an educator. She’s been in the classroom, assisted teachers as an instructional coach and directed district curriculum and professional development but is currently working as the director of translation and interpretation services for a large school district. Despite multiple degrees and working across district specializations, she had always wanted to pursue a doctoral degree.
“It was on my bucket list,” Rush says. “I put it off when I had my son so that I could be fully available to him, but as he got older I knew I needed to start. I wanted a program that was online but offered high quality instruction that would be rigorous. I was extremely excited to discover this program because it completely matched my goals.”
Translation and interpretation services are not offered consistently in every district. The specialization of education systems improvement is uniquely matched to her needs because many of her services and processes are being built from the ground up.
“The experience has been amazing,” Rush says. “I say all the time that my work fuels study and vice versa. My job gives me a constant canvas to think systemically about how to create or change our practice.”
Having been in the field so long, Rush shares that studying improvement science has revitalized how she approaches her work.
“I’ve learned how to define problems and dissect them,” Rush says. “I make plans for changes and how to implement those changes. We’re learning how to build cycles of continuous learning.”
Rush has been pleasantly surprised at how collaborative the virtual program has been.
“None of our classes meet for the sake of meeting,” Rush says. “We work and collaborate in ways that I really appreciate. Each session is designed for practice.”
Rush also appreciated that the dissertation work begins at the start of the program. She felt that building that work into the coursework makes it much more manageable than other programs she considered.
“It really makes it bite size,” Rush says. “You don’t complete all of your coursework and then start your dissertation.”
Rush is centering her research around her work in translation and interpretation services. More than 5,000 families in her district request these services. Rush leads a team of interpreters and translators that meets these families’ communication needs in accordance with federal mandates. Rush is studying how to effectively train teachers to work with these interpreters and meet students’ needs.
“We have to build strong partnerships between the interpreter and educator to create successful communication,” Rush says. “When this relationship functions successfully, we can actively engage parents and families with their child’s education.”
Rush was inspired to work in language access services when she saw firsthand how language barriers prevent parental involvement. When working with Hispanic families, she knew their culture placed a high priority on education and showed a great amount of respect toward educators. When translation and interpretation services are not available, parents and children can feel frustrated, isolated and misunderstood.
“I saw the barrier and the solution,” Rush says. “I am empowered by this program to help make our services better and solve real problems in our district.”
Rush says how quick her professors were to implement change was really encouraging. The program coordinator uses surveys to gauge student experience.
“I’ve seen my feedback immediately addressed,” Rush says. “When my professors ask us to implement these practices in our own work, I know that they are willing to do the same. I love that about this program.”