how can teachers navigate contemporary issues in education

A New Era of Education — How the M.Ed. Program is Making its Mark on Modern Learning

Eight years old and adorned in ill-fitting workwear, you survey the lesson plans attached to your clipboard — looking more like a parachute than a professional. In your make-shift classroom, you carefully set the desks of a student body composed of eager action figures, smiling stuffed animals, and, if you’re fortunate enough, a begrudging sibling or two.

If, like many children, you ever played “teacher,” this scene likely takes a familiar shape. Thus, it may seem unlikely that merely 37% of parents would encourage their child to become an educator — a statistic plummeting to 20% when Americans consider whether they would encourage anyone to enter the field. This not only raises alarm about the state of education today but its sustainability as an institution for safeguarding students and shaping young minds.

So, why are aspiring educators steering clear of schools? Since 2020, teachers have abandoned their textbooks at unprecedented rates — seeking career opportunities outside of the classroom. According to a 2022 Gallup Poll, over half of all teachers find professional burnout to be a frequent and ongoing struggle — marking the K-12 educational sector as one of the fields with the highest rates of unhealthy stress. While the pandemic certainly exacerbated issues in public education, the catalyst for this crisis predates COVID-19 — arising from a complex web fraught with safety concerns, unrealistic expectations, and insufficient administrative support.

Amidst emerging debates surrounding this issue, there is one consensus: our approach to K-12 education must adapt to the modern era. As the director of Goodwin University and University of Bridgeport’s joint master’s in Teacher Leadership program (M.Ed.), Dr. Robert LeGary, Jr. is helping revive the landscape of K-12 teaching. Through a dynamic approach focused on inclusive practices, learner flexibility, and current issues in education, LeGary provides essential support for budding K-12 teachers — empowering them with the tools and autonomy to thrive as agents of educational change and equity.

“There’s a teacher and leader within all of us.”

For LeGary, directing the Teacher Leadership program is more than a matter of administration.

Beyond acting as the program director and an assistant professor, LeGary shapes and evaluates the M.Ed. curriculum while working with fellow faculty to optimize student learning — helping prospective and current K-12 educators foster the skills they’ll need to navigate modern classrooms. “I try to model practices through my own behavior. I’m my students’ colleague, and we’re all teachers, educators, and leaders working with one another,” he offers. “I probably end up learning more from my students than they learn from me. I really serve as a facilitator and cheerleader for building their self-confidence because there’s a teacher and leader within all of us.”

Although the M.Ed. curriculum primarily focuses on teacher leadership, those who enroll in the program arrive from diverse career paths. “Our M.Ed. students are in cohorts with K-12 teachers, as well as other education professionals like librarians or counselors,” LeGary elaborates. “They’re also in a cohort of people who are working at different levels in higher education, social service agencies, and even law enforcement.” Given this breadth of professional backgrounds, LeGary creates collaborative classroom spaces — focused on increasing accessibility for students and stakeholders across professional settings.

A supportive journey to success

LeGary recognizes that classroom barriers aren’t the only challenges his students face. As they earn their master’s degrees, M.Ed. students often have personal and professional obstacles to consider. “Graduate students, in many ways, have a lot more stressors,” he explains. “They’re trying to juggle a lot by coming back to school to get their master’s degrees.”

While these stressors may not pause when you pursue your master’s, the M.Ed. program’s flexible design makes the journey to your degree more navigable. “Many students are working full time, lending to a flexible program design. The M.Ed. is typically a 15-month program — part-time, fully online, and with weekly synchronous class sessions through Zoom,” he outlines.

LeGary further notes that Goodwin students don’t only benefit from flexibility. They also have access to exemplary support services. “Goodwin is highly supportive of students. It’s what we call a ‘wrap-around’ approach, and we do that at all levels.”

Some of these services are specifically tailored to the needs of graduate students — a demographic often prone to sub-par institutional support. “We have a senior academic advisor who’s assigned to our M.Ed. students. They have full access to services such as counseling and tutoring.” LeGary continues, “Goodwin has an embedded librarian who’s dedicated to our graduate students, helping them find resources, and even helping them construct literature reviews and other assignments for the program.”

Two universities — one program

In addition to the flexibility and support offered by Goodwin, M.Ed. students can choose the degree route that suits their needs best — enrolling in the joint M.Ed. program through Goodwin University or University of Bridgeport. “I tell students during our interviews and information sessions to come to the school closest to them geographically. If you live closer to Bridgeport, you could enter in through that door. If you want to take advantage of any of their support services or the library, you’ll have access there,” LeGary delineates. “UB’s services are a mirror of Goodwin’s, and once students are in the M.Ed. program, there’s really no demarcation as to who’s a Goodwin student and who’s a University of Bridgeport student.

LeGary finds joy not only in seeing this supportive and collaborative approach help his students, but in dedicating himself to their enduring success. “One of the metrics I use as program director is ensuring that one hundred percent of our M.Ed. students complete the program successfully. I’ll do whatever they need in terms of tools, resources, support, or my time in order for them to succeed.”



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A framework for the future

To armor developing professionals against the ever-present challenges in public education, LeGary takes a dynamic approach. “The master’s of Education and Teacher Leadership program is grounded in three pillars or conceptual frameworks. It’s focused on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), social justice, and teacher leadership,” LeGary outlines. “In some courses, we’ll go deeper into UDL or social justice, particularly looking at culturally responsive and anti-racist teaching practices. Other courses go deeper into leadership and how to influence various educational and social service organizations, both as formal and informal leaders.”

Opening doors with Universal Design

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) — a research-based model for removing barriers, promoting equity, and fostering inclusive learning environments — engages learners from all walks of life.

As a senior UDL teaching fellow with Goodwin’s Institute for Learning Innovation (GUILI), LeGary is well-versed in the framework’s immense potential. “One of the primary principles of UDL is allowing students flexible options for constructing and demonstrating their mastery of learning,” he explains. “What’s elegant and beautiful about the UDL framework is that it can be scaled to any developmental level for learners across grades, content areas, and organizations.”

M.Ed. students don’t just enjoy learning about UDL. They refine their understanding and expertise by experiencing it through the eyes of a learner. “We’re allowing our students to experience UDL in their courses. We’re modeling through our courses what UDL principles look like, such as providing context using multimedia and web-based resources that go beyond textbooks. Students also have multiple modalities for how they complete assignments and formative assessments. So, instead of just doing essays to demonstrate what they’ve learned, they can make videos and put together presentations.” LeGary continues, “At the same time, we’re teaching our students how to implement these UDL guidelines and checkpoints in their own classroom spaces.”

In addition to drawing on his UDL fellowship, LeGary also uses personal experience to illustrate the framework’s efficacy. “Coming from a 20-year special education background myself, we were always retrofitting lessons to individual students after accessibility problems emerged in class,” he recalls. “But with UDL, even before students step into the classroom environment, we’re designing curricula with learner variability, inclusivity, and diversity in mind.”

This directly lends to another pillar of the M.Ed. curriculum — social justice in education. “One overall benefit of the UDL framework is that it engages all learners regardless of variabilities. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are complemented by providing a toolbox to look at a system, curriculum, or even a single learning activity to identify learning barriers without putting the burden on students,” LeGary shares. “UDL gives us a big-picture view of how barriers are embedded into organizational structures. Looking at the framework, you can consider how to be more inclusive not just for one group of learners or stakeholders, but for everyone.

Addressing inequity in modern education

It isn’t only through UDL that students develop socially inclusive practices and strategies. They also hone these skills through explicit practice and instruction. “With courses like Contemporary Issues in Urban Education, we really go deep into equity and inclusive teaching,” he states. “They learn to apply systems thinking approach to look at educational and organizational systems to identify marginalizing, exclusionary barriers where stakeholders or students are not able to access opportunities.”

By LeGary’s assessment, this is one of the most crucial ideas students develop while earning their M.Ed. “They’re learning how to build capacity among their learners or stakeholders and engage families and local community partners. They put together a vision within a strategic plan to meet the needs of their organization while really developing people within their schools or organizations.”

For students, this fosters an eye-opening perspective. “I’m really trying to push them outside their comfort zones to leverage and optimize the skills they’re learning in order to become effective agents of change within their schools and organizations, even without formal titles or responsibilities. It’s about showing up in a compassionate and supportive way.”

Agents of change

Both as an educator and program director, Rob LeGary understands the obstacles his students will face in a field fraught by burnout and frustration. “Many teachers are leaving the field. About 40% of teachers will leave within the first five years of teaching. Some of them will come back, but we’ve seen the number of teachers leaving increase.”

LeGary believes that through the M.Ed. program’s forward-thinking approach to teaching and learning, instructors and leaders can find newfound inspiration to continue making an impact in the classroom. “I really want to make sure that in the master’s program, students who teach in the pre-K-12 system are reinvigorated and feel they’re able to hone and cultivate their practice and use the competencies and skills they’re learning for the rest of their careers.”

As for those on the fence about continuing their teaching careers, LeGary offers words of wisdom. “The advice I give students is to keep all their options open. Teaching, learning, and leadership are all about influence and how we care for one another in all those different spaces.”

And for those who are ready to take the next step? LeGary encourages starting with Goodwin and University of Bridgeport’s M.Ed. program. “If you’re looking for a program that’s dynamic, innovative, grounded in research, and want to use your degree to affect positive and transformative change within your organization, I would absolutely encourage you to join us.”

Dr. Robert LeGary is an established educational leader in K-12 special education. He has served and partnered with children, adolescents, and their families in their pursuit of equitable educational opportunities. Having worked with students with complex learning profiles, LeGary brings a level of empathy, compassion, and optimism to his teaching practice while removing barriers for all students to realize their academic and career potential. As an experienced higher education instructor, LeGary is passionate about UDL and inclusive teaching practices. He believes that learning is a collaborative, equitable, and visible process that is mutually beneficial and transformative for both students and the teacher. LeGary enjoys sharing his teaching and leadership experiences in the classroom as the program director for the Master of Education degree in Teacher Leadership at Goodwin University and University of Bridgeport.


Robert LeGary, Jr., Ed.D., is the director of Goodwin University and University of Bridgeport’s joint M.Ed. program.


Ready to level up as a teacher and leader? Goodwin University and University of Bridgeport’s master’s in Teacher Leadership (M.Ed.) program will equip you with the knowledge, skills, and strategies needed to make a meaningful impact on modern education. Learn more about earning your M.Ed. today!