Growing up in Ohio as the oldest of five siblings, Constance Conner says her younger brothers and sisters always made her feel like a superhero. “They think everything I do is so easy, and I’m like…‘Guys, you don’t even know the half of it.’”
Currently Dean of Engagement for a private school in Cleveland, Constance has been honing her superhero skills for years now. While in school for her undergrad degree, she was captain of her basketball team and worked at a rape crisis center. It was at the center where she began to directly see how education and knowledge could empower others.
“We worked on building curriculum around understanding boundaries about consent, sexual harassment, learning relationships, oppression, and the interconnectedness with all of that regarding poverty, as well as within the LGBTQIA community,” she explains.
Passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people, Constance spent the last few years juggling full-time work while getting her Master of Arts in Public Administration*. In May of 2020, she earned her graduate degree, but she hasn’t slowed down yet.
An avid sports fan who went on to play a bit of semi-pro basketball (until getting derailed by a torn ACL), Constance has stayed involved in athletics by coaching high school basketball and volleyball. That’s in addition to her work as a dean, managing a caseload of about 100 students at her school.** And all that is in addition to the particular challenges of 2020 – navigating the unpredictable state of flux the school system has been in ever since she graduated.
“Prior to COVID, my work entailed pulling kids out of the classroom so we could do individual social and emotional learning work with them,” explains Constance. “We’d work on impulse control, following directions, and coping skills for when things weren’t going the way they wanted.” These days, however, things are a little different as the school is operating on a half virtual/half in-person schedule, with many of the kids being able to opt in or out of in-person learning.
Constance is still working at the school and within the community to provide the resources and support her students and families need to succeed. Currently, she’s in the process of helping set up the right tools for parents to use at home to help with the virtual side of educating.
She’s also regularly held a monthly support group for parents and caretakers of her Title 1 students.
“We do different things like talk about social and emotional roles for middle schoolers, and talk about milestones for middle schoolers, what’s normal for them,” says Constance. “A lot of my students have grandparents who are very involved in raising them. We teach these grandparents how to be acclimated to teenagers in this day and age – how to handle technology and understanding that social media can be both good and bad. We want to help parents see there’s a balance to it.”
When Constance originally finished her undergrad work in criminal justice and police science at another college, she planned on continuing on to get her master’s degree in education. However, after talking to an Ashford University** advisor, she realized public administration was more her style.
“I want to be in charge charge,” laughs Constance. “They told me it sounded like my end goal was to be more involved with policies and understanding how the system works, so they suggested public administration.”
Now that she’s graduated, Constance is working on getting her license to become a principal administrator.
“Understanding policies and procedures and understanding community goals and how everything around them needs to align with finding resources the community needs – it all fits right in with being a principal,” says Constance.
Her end objective? To someday run her own school.
“I work in a predominantly Black community, an urban community,” says Constance. “I would love to have a boarding school a little further out of the city, so students could get a different perspective. Teaching them more than what you get from a purely structural education. I’d like the school to teach life skills, financial skills – the types of things you don’t always learn in school.”
As a student at Ashford, Constance learned that time management was an imperative skill to have.
“I’m not a person who does things last-minute. When you have that 10- to 15-page paper due your final week, you have to remember to do several pages a day and get it done ahead of time. You want to have plenty of time to have a tutor read your paper over so you can get in corrections. Time management and using the resources that Ashford offers were the two biggest things to me.”
She also advises students to meet with their faculty members if they ever find themselves struggling. “The easiest part of going to Ashford was that my teachers were always very helpful,” Constance recalls. “I’m not a math girl, but I had a couple classes that were heavy on math. One class in particular, I had a lot of anxiety about. But I had a really good instructor who worked with me, was really good at answering questions, doing things like extra instructional videos and basically making me feel comfortable in successfully taking that class.”
Now, when she gets the chance to relax and unwind, Constance spends her time working out, cheering on the Cleveland Cavaliers (although she readily admits Lebron James will always be her fav player, no matter what team he’s on!) and hanging out with her nieces and nephews.
She’s also a fan of spending quality time with Denzel, her boyfriend of 10 years. Although they attended different universities, both Constance and Denzel graduated with their master’s degrees in May 2020.
*This program is no longer accepting new enrollments. Please see the catalog for the current available degree programs. Certain degree programs may not be available in all states.
**Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus
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An online degree from Ashford University does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state. If you want to become a classroom teacher, contact your state’s education authorities prior to enrolling at Ashford University to determine what state-specific requirements you must complete before obtaining your teacher’s license. Ashford University graduates will be subject to additional requirements on a state-by-state basis that will include one or more of the following: student teaching or practicum experience, additional coursework, additional testing, or, if the state requires a specific type of degree to seek alternative certification, earning an additional degree. None of Ashford’s online education programs are accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which is a requirement for certification in some states. Other factors, such as a student’s criminal history, may prevent an applicant from obtaining licensure or employment in this field of study. All prospective students are advised to visit the Education Resource Organizations Directory (EROD) and to contact the licensing body of the state where they are licensed or intend to obtain licensure to verify that these courses qualify for teacher certification, endorsement, and/or salary benefits in that state prior to enrolling. Prospective students are also advised to regularly review the state’s policies and procedures relating to licensure as those policies are subject to change.