Dr. Cullen Finished Her Ph.D. Program!

How did English teacher, Rachel Cullen, earn her Ph.D?


Dr. Rachel Cullen happily posing in front of her dissertation at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs on March 16th 2023!

With further developments in the world of education, many teachers and students are seeking to grow their knowledge. One of the most significant ways people grow is through secondary or tertiary education. Air Academy High School’s A.P Language and Composition teacher, Dr. Rachel Cullen, recently finished her dissertation for her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Research, and Policy through the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) on March 16th, 2023! Dr. Cullen, other teachers, and her students share what this process was like to note only go through, but also to witness.

A Ph.D., short for a Doctor of Philosophy, is a degree earned in the highest level of education that an individual can receive. The doctorate program of educational leadership and policy covers many different teaching methods and philosophies that allow educators to broaden their educational knowledge.  

“As an active participant in these programs you will develop as a leader through expanded self-knowledge and world-view. You will develop the competencies and strategies to lead others,” writers at UCCS mentioned in their article titled “ Ph.D. in educational leadership, research, and policy

Like many other Ph.D. students, Dr. Cullen put in an immense amount of effort to excel in the program for various reasons such as furthering her opportunities to work in the field of education. 

“I want to be able to see what doors are opened through that process, and I want to be able to stay in the field of education but potentially leave my classroom at some point and maybe have an impact in other ways through being an administrator or through working at the district level,” Dr. Cullen commented. 

Though participating in a doctoral program can be a great experience, it does not come without difficulties. For Dr. Cullen, who works as a teacher and a gymnastics coach, the hardest part was finding a good balance between her work, personal, and school life. 

“For me it came down to my support system… my husband is very supportive. He helped me through this whole thing. My mom is very supportive…she lives in town and she’s a great grandmother to my children, so she helps in that way,” Dr. Cullen stated. 

With having to balance such a heavy workload, Dr. Cullen’s students have stuck by her and done their best to make her job easier. 

“We tried not to bug her about grades because we knew that she had a lot on her plate. There were some times when she was a bit behind on grading, but we all kind of understood,” junior Wren Fabian shared. 

Going through a Ph.D. program is not only a great overall experience, but it also allows individuals to gain a perspective on how the people around them can learn to better accommodate the needs of students. 

“I had a friend one time describe getting your Ph.D. as being for your ego, but really, going through this journey has been for me. Being a student while teaching has given me a huge amount of empathy for what you all do as students,” choir teacher and Ph.D. student at Boston University, Austina Lee, shared.

In general, working towards a higher education level allows individuals to explore a new realm of ideas, learn about themselves and others, and further push their limits. Dr. Cullen is a great example of hard work and determination and serves as an inspiration to her students.