Jennifer Hernandez is a champion of technology in education.
Her career began as an elementary school teacher in Norfolk, Va. After several years, she transitioned to a role in school administration, where she remained until she became the principal of a school in Marietta, Ga. five years ago. Her school, the Marietta Center for Advanced Academics (MCAA) was the state’s first STEM-certified school and a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. Under her leadership, initiatives as 1:1 technology learning and “BYOT” (bring your own technology) for students, took flight. The school also twice won a Georgia School of Excellence award.
Even though she had an Educational Specialist (EdS) degree and was excelling in a leadership position, Hernandez decided to pursue a Doctor of Education (EdD) degree—which helped her expand her career even further.
Looking to the Future
Hernandez had already reached principal status without a doctorate, but she could see that in the future, that might not be enough. “A lot of principals have doctorates,” she says. “Having one sets you apart.” Looking further down the road, Hernandez wanted the option to play a bigger role in her district and was concerned that not having a doctorate could prevent her from doing that. “Besides, I wanted to continue my professional learning for my own benefit,” she says.
Moving to a Larger Role
She began her EdD in Educational Leadership and Management in 2011 and graduated in 2014. In early 2016, she was promoted into a new district-wide role, Director of Digital Learning. “In this role, I oversee the digital resources transformation of the entire district,” Hernandez says. “I work with the technology and curriculum instructors to guide the successful implementation of new techniques.”
But educational technology is more than just implementing software or a new curriculum. “I’m setting up the entire department,” she explains. “First and foremost, it’s all about student learning. That has to be the key. That and technology become our area of expertise.”
She notes that her experience at Capella gave her important insight as she moves into this new role. “Using Capella’s online platform as an adult learner, I was able to get a different perspective,” she says. “It put me in the student’s seat, which is very valuable as we investigate ways to transform our district technologically.”
Achieve Success, Then Find the Next Challenge
Right now, Hernandez is fully committed to getting the new digital department up and running, but she does have some longer-range plans. “I’ll be in this capacity for at least the next three years,” she says. “I want to get the office firmly planted and successful. Then I’d like to look towards becoming an assistant superintendent as my next step.”
Many school districts require superintendents to have doctoral degrees, which put Hernandez on the right track. For other educators considering taking the leap into a doctoral program, she strongly recommends Capella. “I did my research and got referrals from others,” she says. “What sold me on Capella was the reputation and the flexibility. I was a mom of two and already a principal when I started. The flexibility of the online program was critical.”
Learn more information about Capella’s online doctoral education programs.