People had always encouraged Diana Mai to be “more than a teacher.” As a young girl, Mai maintained good grades and was always enrolled in enriched or AP-type classes. Still, she knew from an early age that she wanted to be a teacher and nothing else.
However, when it came time to choose a career path, Mai took the advice of her mentors and peers and put herself through law school. After graduating, she practiced as an attorney for just a year before deciding to go back to school to pursue her original dream.
“It was the best decision I have ever made,” said Mai, who teaches fourth grade at Frelinghuysen Township School in Newton, New Jersey. “I learned very quickly that there is nothing ‘more than a teacher.’ As teachers, we are counselors, nurses, coaches, cheerleaders, problem-solvers, psychologists, parents and advocates every single day.”
Mai was recently chosen to receive the Bisk Foundation Teacher Education Scholarship, which will provide her with a 25% tuition discount through graduation as she pursues an MS in Educational Administration from The University of Scranton’s 100% online program.
Mai takes pride in being a leader in her district, and she knew that if she ever wanted to assume a formal leadership role that a Master’s in Educational Administration would be necessary. Even if she chose to continue in an informal leadership role, a graduate degree would be beneficial.
“I believe that education is always evolving and going back to get a master’s degree keeps me up to date on current trends as well as innovations in education,” said Mai, who has taught second through sixth grade during her 14 years in the profession.
Her husband, Michael Mai, completed the same program in 2008 and is now a principal in Great Meadows, N.J. He had also recommended the program to one of Mai’s coworkers.
“Both my husband and my coworker expressed how fully prepared they felt after graduation from The University of Scranton online,” Mai said. “For me, I wanted a degree that fully prepared me for the next step in my career.”
Flexibility was also a huge factor when it came to choosing Scranton’s online program. As a working mother of two daughters, Mai needed the freedom to work at her own pace. Other online students have also encouraged her to work ahead when she can to compensate for busier times in life.
Mai’s biggest concern was that she would be trading flexibility for reputability. After a closer look at Scranton’s rankings, she knew it would be an excellent university to have on her résumé. For more than 20 consecutive years, Scranton has been named among the top 10 Best Regional Universities in the North by U.S. News & World Report.
“For me, the ranking of The University of Scranton, as well as its reputation as a brick-and-mortar institution, were paramount,” she said.
Before enrolling in the online program, Mai knew her most valuable classroom management skill would be collaboration.
“As an online student, the ability to collaborate with other students via email, discussion boards and study groups helps to keep us invested in the program and getting the most out of our experience,” she said.
After long days at work, Mai feels especially lucky to be married to an educator. She can bounce ideas off her husband when a different perspective is needed or when she is lacking inspiration. Mai’s coworkers are also there whenever she needs support.
“Good teachers are constantly sharing and supporting each other for the benefit of all.”
It’s safe to say that Mai was always meant to be a teacher. Her favorite part about her job is reaching those students who had been “deemed academically or behaviorally challenged and had not yet found success.”
“Those are the children I work the hardest for,” she said. “When I can reach the underdog and get them to see the ability they have within them to succeed, I feel like I have the best job on Earth.”