Balancing School, Work, and Family while Studying at the McKay School

The pressures of rigorous academic coursework, employment, and a social life are a struggle for many students. But balancing a full-time job, part-time school schedule, and family of four is not uncommon for the students in the ExSL Program.

To become a school administrator requires a master’s degree. Many potential school leaders have taught full time for many years, and they find it difficult to leave their jobs to attend school. To meet their needs, the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department of the McKay School offers an alternative program titled ExSL. This program allows students to attend school part time for 20 months, compared to the Leadership Preparation Program that requires students to attend full time. While attending the ExSL program, master’s students keep their daytime jobs as teachers.

Kelli Eisenhart serves during the day as a teacher on administrative assignment (TAA) at Vista Heights Middle School. At night she attends classes at the McKay School. As the mother of four children, she does not find this easy. In order for Eisenhart to accomplish her goals, she and her husband work as a team. Her husband works the graveyard shift for Wells Fargo Investments so he is able to be with their four children while she is at work. While she is at school, her in-laws help babysit. “I have some amazing support from my family,” Eisenhart explains.

John LaBare is in his 16th year of teaching science at Lehi Junior High School. He attends classes while supporting a family of seven—his wife and five children. Like Eisenhart, LaBare relies on his spouse for support. “She is a catalyst for a lot of things I do in my life,” he explains. “She understands that what I’m doing will make a difference.”

As every busy student knows, it’s important to prioritize responsibilities. “If you prioritize your time, things seem to work out,” LaBare reports. “Our professors are very understanding; however, the program is a lot of work. There are some nights I get only three to four hours of sleep. You learn to not procrastinate or you will fall behind very quickly.”

Many students plan to pursue another degree after finishing the master’s program. For example, Eisenhart hopes to eventually pursue a doctorate and become a professor at BYU-Hawaii.

Both Eisenhart and LaBare feel extremely grateful to be in the ExSL program, despite its challenges. “I was lucky to get into the ExSL program because it is nationally recognized,” LaBare noted. “We have amazing professors who have taught me so much in the last two years. I wanted to have experience in the classroom before I became an administrator, but I wish hadn’t waited 16 years to get my master’s degree.”