When Latonya Hewitt saw one of her former students sentenced to 40 years in prison, her motivation to make an even bigger impact as an educator intensified.

“I felt that something has got to change,” she said. “I tried my hand at law enforcement, human services and substitute teaching long-term — they were not effective. I said to myself, ‘Is there any way for you to go into the schools to educate students?'”

Hewitt hopes to do so after enrolling in the online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Educational Leadership program at Eastern Michigan University. She is on track to complete the program in August 2023.

“I am in the alternative route to teacher certification in the T.E.A.C.H. Program,” she said. “Once I am certified and seasoned as an educator in a couple of years, I would like to go into principalship and maybe someday run a school.”

While Hewitt works toward her master’s degree, she is a substitute physical education teacher.

“I consider myself a non-traditional student,” she said. “Being a working person, the online courses at Eastern Michigan give me lots of flexibility and convenience.

“I don’t have to race to park my car or scurry along through the campus. I can do my schoolwork at work, in the comfort of my home or anywhere in the world. It’s so convenient.”

Hewitt also enjoys the support and professionalism of the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) faculty members.

“The instructors are so informative and knowledgeable of the subject matter,” she said. “I have picked up so much.

“I like that the format is asynchronous, so I can learn at my own pace. If I have questions, I can easily reach out to my instructor via email or voicemail. They always get back to me quickly when I do.”

Motor City Motivation

Hewitt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice (1999) and a bachelor’s degree in political science (2002) from Wayne State University.

“I went through a major career transformation,” she said. “I worked in law enforcement briefly. Then, I spent the majority of my career in human services and substitute teaching on the side.

“The full-time position I had in human services was working with troubled youth, youth at risk in many sectors, from foster care to the juvenile justice system.”

While teaching physical education in her current role, Hewitt is incorporating some of the lessons she hopes to impart on students as a future administrator.

“I give them the energy to know more about what they can do physically so their minds are set to focus on what they can do in class,” she said. “I was also able to incorporate reading, math, history and writing in P.E. class.

“Students see how famous people incorporate P.E. into their everyday life — fitness, wellness, a healthy lifestyle. There’s also some grade improvement from physically-active students.”

So far, Leadership for School Improvement, taught by Dr. Phillip Caldwell II, is Hewitt’s favorite course in the online M.A. in Educational Leadership curriculum. She has especially gained an appreciation for diversity and different cultures.

“He challenged us as students to step outside of our comfort zone and go to a place that we would not go to on a daily basis,” she said. “I chose to go to the largest mosque in the United States. It was an amazing experience … [Muslims] relate so much to what people in my culture go through.

“People come from all walks of life. We should try to learn about each other and understand where we come from. We have so many things in common.”

Vroom, Vroom

Hewitt has a lot of love and support from her family and friends as she races toward a major accomplishment.

“They’re very excited — especially my mom,” she said. “I will be the first woman in my family to obtain a master’s degree. I am making history.

“I plan to walk at the commencement ceremony when I am finished. I worked hard for this. I also want to do it for my younger sister and my niece. I recently became an aunt.”

Once Hewitt has a master’s degree under her belt, she hopes to achieve her goal of becoming an administrator at the National Heritage Academies, one of the largest charter school districts in the country.

“Having a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan in my portfolio lets people know that I am properly trained, and I have what it takes to communicate and work globally with others,” she said. “I believe that it will open doors for me.”

Hewitt, who enjoys traveling, fitness, painting and drawing in her free time, knows that she is cruising on her way to ensuring students stay on the right path as a well-prepared school leader.

“I have got good value out of the Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program,” she said. “If you are looking to change your life or your careers — especially if you are a non-traditional student —Eastern Michigan is not only the most convenient school, but it’s the best school to attend to meet your future needs.”

Learn more about EMU’s online M.A. in Educational Leadership program.