Paul Bleuher was looking for a change after six years as a financial trader. Earning a Master of Arts in Education from Benedictine University convinced him he made the right choice.
"My goals prior to pursuing the master's degree were to simply get into the profession of teaching," Bleuher said. "As I continued my coursework at Benedictine, I realized how much I enjoyed the experience in the classroom with other adult learners who were all passionate about the field of education.
"This led to me completing another master's program and eventually engaging in a doctoral program, all along the pathway of getting into higher levels of education as a school and district administrator," he added.
Today, Bleuher is a principal at a middle school in the northern suburbs. It's a far cry from the frenzied pace of the trading floor, but Bleuher found the people he met during his studies were no less passionate about their profession.
"The classes I took in the program were very rewarding due to the fact that many of my fellow students were career changers like me," he said. "Having a room full of people who were passionate about making this change and had a good deal of life experience made the environment very stimulating."
Learning from people who had classroom experience helped him conquer subjects that were far removed from the world of stop-limit orders, asset-or-nothing call options, down transition probabilities and long jelly rolls.
"While the coursework was challenging at times, the expertise and experiences of our teachers, who in many cases came from the field of education, made those challenges attainable," he said.
One of those teachers was John Zigmond, Ed.D., director of the Alternative Certification Program in Math and Science, who was a secondary teacher and school district administrator for 36 years before joining the Benedictine faculty.
"He had a great influence on me due to the similarities in what he had done in the profession as a coach and teacher and his evolution as an educator," Bleuher said. "I was able to relate to some of his experiences, which was a great connection.
"The one thing that really stuck with me throughout my work at Benedictine was the notion of education as an ever-evolving process," Bleuher added. "During the different course work, I was able to see the growth and back-and-forth nature of education as it has grown over time."
While Bleuher is now a participant in the evolution of education, his degree from Benedictine contributed to his own development as an educator.
"My degree from Benedictine was critical to my growth as an educator and as an advocate for children," he said. "It was the first time where I really knew that this field of study and profession were the perfect fit for my personality and how I view life and the role of education.
"It was the first of three graduate programs that I have completed, and if time and life allows, there will probably be more to follow," he added. "As I continue to grow as a professional educator, I look toward Benedictine as the place where this journey began."