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Although Anne Staffieri lives in California, she travelled all the way to Provo to attend her doctoral classes.

In the McKay School of Education it is not uncommon for graduate students to have full-time jobs and to commute to Provo for classes, but for education doctorate student Anne Staffieri, the commute was a little more than a few miles down I-15. As assistant superintendent of human resources in the Escondido Union High School District in San Diego County, California, Staffieri commuted all the way to Provo for classes every three weeks.

The McKay School’s EdD program is designed to be accessible to students from outside of Utah, and, as part of the first cohort of the program, Staffieri is a model of what the program makes possible. Also in her cohort were two students from Idaho.

Although there are many doctoral programs closer to San Diego, Staffieri’s positive undergraduate experience at BYU made the choice to return easy for her.

“The value of a BYU graduate education to me was very high and I was excited about the opportunity of learning with others in a faith-based environment,” Staffieri said.

Students in the program have class from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays every three weeks for two years, with some concentrated courses in the summer. With a demanding full-time job and three children at home, completing the coursework and commuting to Utah for 15 hours of class every three weeks was challenging for Staffieri and required her to be extremely organized.

Staffieri and her family on the night of her doctoral defense
Staffieri and her family on the night of her doctoral defense

Despite the difficulties of the program, Staffieri feels she grew and gained a lot from her time in the program and working on her dissertation.

"This program confirmed my passion for continual learning and growth," Staffieri said. "When you are designing and conducting your research and then writing about it, it is a whole different experience, which is very individual and which I found to be like nothing I had previously experienced."

Being the only student from California, Staffieri brought an interesting perspective to the classroom, but she also benefitted from the experiences of other students.

"I was continually reminded of the impact that state and local legislation have upon the culture and operations of public education," Staffieri said. "I appreciated the unique perspectives that we shared as a result of our varied backgrounds. I see things differently in my current position because of the broad perspective that I gained from this program."

Staffieri’s dissertation was different from the typical doctoral dissertation. The EdD program requires that students use their own work environment and experience to research real issues in the education field and that dissertations be made journal-ready so that they can be published immediately and contribute to the literature around the subject.

Staffieri’s dissertation focused on trust and norms within professional learning communities. While she had several interesting findings in her dissertation, what Staffieri learned from her study went beyond statistical results.

Escondido Union High School District Administrative Cabinet 2015-2016
Escondido Union High School District Administrative Cabinet 2015–2016

“I am learning to appreciate every day, both the challenges and the rewards, and to keep focusing on what is really important without getting frustrated by the details,” she said. “It’s not really about me but it’s about how I can use the opportunities and abilities that I have to make a difference wherever I am.”

Staffieri received a bachelor’s degree in biology from BYU and taught biology in the Escondido Union High School District for 11 years. While teaching, she earned her master’s degree in education from California State University–San Marcos. During her administrative career, she has worked in three different school districts in San Diego County.

Staffieri loves the field of education and chose to go into administration to broaden the influence she could have at the school and district level. After all her experiences in the education field, she offers advice to those considering education.

"If you love to learn and love to facilitate learning for others, a career in education is the right choice for you. Relax and enjoy the art of teaching and learning and what you as an individual can bring to the educational practice. Have fun with it and celebrate your growth along the way."

Staffieri and her family live in Temecula, California. She has four children, one of whom is a teacher in the Alpine School District. She enjoys swimming and spending time at the beach with her family. She also plays the piano and the organ, sings in her ward choir, and teaches the gospel doctrine class in her ward.

Writer: Kirsten Clancy

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922