Damein Phoenix ’13 MA has seen his teaching career take him halfway around the world. Now, back home in New Jersey, he has returned to his roots as a school leader in the city where he grew up.
Phoenix serves as an assistant principal at East Orange Campus High School. “I feel students can identify with me because I can relate to some of their stories and some of the circumstances they may face,” he says.
The educator is among Montclair State alumni of the high-ranking Educational Leadership master’s program who are making a difference shaping the learning and experiences of their students in New Jersey and beyond.
“When you have students come back and tell you their stories, and tell you how much of an impact the things you’ve either said or done, words can’t express how rewarding that is,” Phoenix says.
Phoenix attended The Graduate School while teaching math, returning home after a stint teaching calculus to international students in Johannesburg and students attending local farm schools in Soweto, South Africa.
Montclair State “gave me the tools I need to be a resource and a value to students,” says Phoenix, who earned his MA in Educational Leadership. “Transparency, communication and clear expectations, I learned that straight out of the program. I utilize them all the time.”
Talking with visitors recently after school hours, he reflected on his day. “Today was one of those days when the tools and the methodologies and the textbook theory, the items that you learn in the program were implemented in practice,” he says.
Phoenix’s path in the graduate program consisted of traditional and online classes. “The flexibility of the scheduling really assisted me with completing the process,” he says.
He grew to appreciate the online component. “I was a bit skeptical because I like face-to-face contact. But the level of planning and engagement, the thoughtfulness that goes into preparing the classes, you can tell that the professors are really thinking about what is going on at the other end with the student. I was able to get as much out of the online classes as traditional brick and mortar.”
He is not the only one to take notice. Montclair State’s online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program ranked No. 1 in New Jersey and No. 25 in the nation, according to the U.S. News & World Report 2020 Best Online Programs rankings.
In his administrative role in East Orange, Phoenix says, “I urge the students to understand that anything is possible provided you have enough time, effort and intention behind it. My life has been enriched with different experiences. I’ve lived in different parts of the world. I’ve lived in different parts of New Jersey.”
“So, for the students, I’ll often tell them, ‘Step out, go and learn about life outside of New Jersey so that you can come back enriched.’ That has been my main message.”
To learn more about this program, register for the Educational Leadership online information session on Thursday, March 5 at 4:30 p.m.