Amy Pro, principal of The University of Texas at Austin Online High School
Amy Pro: Lifelong learner, educator, and student advocate
3/2/2010Amy Pro has a unique relationship with the university and lifelong learning. Having earned her undergraduate degree here in the ‘70’s, she later returned to our campus to earn her Ph.D. at the same time that her son and daughter were also enrolled and earning their bachelor degrees. Upon graduation, Amy remained on our campus in a professional capacity. For the past six years, she has been the principal of The University of Texas at Austin Online High School (UTHS), a program of the K-16 Education Center.
You returned to the university to earn a PhD while your son and daughter were undergraduates. What was that like?
I must admit that my kids were a bit skeptical. This was their time to be in college, and I think they were a little concerned to have Mom moving in a few blocks away. After the first few months, they saw a benefit. “Mom, do you have any food?” “Mom, can you drop me off at the engineering building….”
The biggest challenge was adjusting to being a full-time student at 43– leaving my home and job to take on this crazy adventure. I had not been a very dedicated undergraduate student, but as an adult student I found that I really enjoyed learning.
The emotional support and encouragement from our family and friends enabled all of us to achieve our goals. My husband received his MBA in ‘97, my son graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree in December ‘98, I received my PhD in May ‘99, and my daughter received her Mechanical Engineering degree in May 2000.
How has continuing education impacted your life?
I am a great example of lifelong learning. I have always found one more reason to continue my studies, and I would not be the person that I am without these combined educational experiences.
My experiences in higher education as an adult were much more positive than my undergraduate experiences. As an adult, I was much more committed to accomplishing my goals and appreciative of the opportunity.
At the K-16 Education Center, we offer opportunities to hundreds of students to help them further their studies and successfully complete high school. It is a wonderful feeling to leave work each day knowing that we have played an important role in students' lives.
A couple of years ago, we had a very bright student who had health issues. Because of her issues, she was unable to attend public high school. UTHS gave her the opportunity to continue her studies at home. We arranged special testing times for her final exams, arranged to administer the TAKS and SAT exams, and made several adjustments to meet her needs. She not only graduated, but now attends a very prestigious college. I still receive an occasional card and phone call from her mother. She remains so grateful for the little extras we did to help her daughter succeed.
I know young students can be irresponsible, miss deadlines, make poor grades. Adults returning to school face another set of challenges. I also know that all students can be successful when given the right opportunities and support.
My experiences, as a lifelong learner, have shaped me into the teacher, counselor and school administrator that I am today. I strive to always be an advocate for the student and to give each student a chance to succeed.
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