Becoming a teacher was not always in the cards for Dr. Linda Aldridge. Growing up as a farmer's daughter in rural Iowa, she wasn't sure if she would continue her education past high school.
"I was good at school and could imagine myself teaching, so that's exactly what I did," she said.
As an associate professor for Emporia State University (ESU), Dr. Aldridge teaches courses on educational research, brain-based learning, school leadership theory, and curriculum leadership.
"School climate and leadership set the tone for learning," she said, highlighting her intention to help level the playing field in the pre-K through 12 system in the United States.
Before moving to post-secondary education, she was a general and special education teacher, a principal, and even held several district-level positions including assistant superintendent, special education director, and general director of student services.
"The further up the system I went, the more my heart yearned just to teach," she said. "Every time I've needed a change and wanted to try something new, there's always been something new or exciting on the horizon in the field of education."
Teaching With Grace
While Dr. Aldridge was happy with administrative roles, she found herself missing the joy of teaching. After wrapping up her role in the public-school system, she was ready for new challenges, and the professorship at Emporia State fit the bill.
Working at ESU means she can teach alongside academic coaches and focus on curriculum design, assessments, and content. She has found that the feedback system in online courses frees up time otherwise spent on face-to-face meetings.
"With large class sizes and an accelerated pace, the coaches are able to help provide quality, timely feedback to the students," she said. "The feedback loop in and of itself is incredibly powerful in helping people to learn."
Dr. Aldridge particularly enjoys building relationships with her online students through platforms like Zoom and Flipgrid. She offers virtual office hours and schedules optional meetings to field special questions or problems. She makes all lessons and assignments easily accessible to her students who are often also full-time teachers, and the faculty are aligned in showing consideration when their online students face roadblocks.
"I push everything that is of lecture nature into little video clips, 10 minutes or less," she said. "It's not like we reduce the rigor of the class because it's a pandemic. But as individuals are dealing with tough situations, we're going to grant a little extra time in our coursework."
Dr. Aldridge's arc in the field of education began with earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Iowa and becoming licensed in general and special education. She put herself through college working part time and summers in a meat packing plant. She holds a master's in school leadership from the University of Kansas as well as principal licensure.
Teaching at the collegiate level was always on her mental horizon, but she felt she first had work to do at the principalship level. To that end, she earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Kansas and district-level administration credentials.
Dr. Aldridge was no stranger to online instruction when she began teaching at ESU. She had experience with virtual learning for paraprofessionals and teacher's aides through an assistive technology platform. She has filmed several webinars for them and continues to do so. As a consultant for school districts and the Kansas State Department of Education, she taps her background in behavioral interventions and trauma-sensitive support. She also fuels her research interests by writing white papers.
When she's not transforming communities, Dr. Aldridge enjoys improving her own health. During the pandemic, she turned her basement into her own personal dojo for krav maga in which she holds a black belt. She also loves hiking mountains and "got to the top of a fourteener" last spring.
Yes — that's 14,000 feet in elevation, and she proves that with the right mindset, anything is possible.
Learn more about Emporia State University's online Education programs.
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