Even though Kelly Pendergest earned her Master of Science in Education degree from Newman in 2020, she walked the stage at the 2022 commencement because her education was that important to her.
Broadening education’s impact with a master’s degree
As a military spouse, Pendergest has lived across the nation. As a teacher, that means she’s taught in numerous locations, too, making her impact widespread.
Pendergest arrived in Wichita in 2015 when her husband, who was in the Air Force, was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base. She taught sixth grade math and science at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School and wanted to become part of school leadership. As a teacher in Wichita, Newman University was top of mind when it came to choosing schools for her graduate work.
Pendergest enrolled at Newman for her Master of Science in Education and did her coursework entirely online, in part because of the pandemic, but also because she and her husband moved back to Kentucky.
She still had a wonderful experience, though, and felt that every course she took at Newman helped her to understand the world around her so she could help change it.
“I’ve been able to do that since the first course I took,” she said.
She also thought her professors were great about teaching how to apply the curriculum to real-world scenarios — knowledge she could apply to the classroom the very next day.
“I don’t have to wait for the next job or the next leadership opportunity,” Pendergest said. “I can take those things right now and impact the people around me not just in my job, but in my vocation and community.”
She added, “And those are things that are unique to Newman University, because they care about who you are as a whole person.”
This fall, Pendergest will start her role as an assistant principal for a K-8 school in Indiana.
“My professional goal is to work as a facilitator to help all students, teachers and invested community members pursue excellence as we learn together to make the world a better place with Jesus Christ as our role model,” she said.
Finding her place in a Catholic community
Even though Pendergest moved from Wichita to Kentucky while a student, she always felt at home among her cohort.
“Working on group projects was never a challenge because the community of learners at Newman are some of the best humans I have encountered,” she said. “Distance and different time zones were not a hindrance, because the love for learning and empathy to find common ground was evident. I have learned so much with the support and insight of my Newman peers.”
Not only did Pendergest feel her classmates were amazing, but also the staff and professors as well.
Pendergest highlighted Newman President Kathleen Jagger’s frequent emails during the pandemic providing updates and options for support, the [email protected] account that kept faith at the center of her daily life, and scavenger hunts and poetry writes as ways in which Newman provided a supportive, Catholic community.
“I have found role models in the Newman community who will be a part of my network and ethical sounding board for the rest of my life,” she said.
She added, “I’m so grateful for the Newman University community. The beauty of Catholic education is that it’s family.”
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