Leadership 101: Going Back to School with Becky Buchman M’03
Whether we feel good about it or otherwise, the back to school season is upon us once again. Groggy-eyed students are finding their way to early morning classes on the campus of University of Findlay, and countless parents are dealing with their children being away at college.
About forty-five minutes north of campus, there’s a high school in the village of Tontogany, Ohio that is home to Otsego Elementary School, where Becky Buchman M‘03 was recently named assistant principal. It’s safe to guess that the UF alumna is one of those people who might feel good about getting back to school.
Buchman has a long and impressive background as an educator, having been hired by the Otsego School District back in 2000 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University. Her students have run the gamut of ages – over the course of her career, she’s taught different classes to first, second, third, and fourth grade – and, during all of this molding of young minds, like a good teacher should, she felt the continuous drive to, as she said, “learn how to be better at what [she] was doing.”
Enter University of Findlay.
“I initially chose Findlay for my master’s program, because I was working full time and knew it offered many night courses that would fit into my busy schedule,” Buchman said. “I quickly learned how fortunate I was to have chosen the school.”
Many people misunderstand the experience of going back to college after some time off. It’s assumed that, if one is an adult who has already spent some time on a college campus earning a four-year degree, then that person shouldn’t have any of the problems that younger, less “schooled” students might have. For Buchman, however, that wasn’t exactly the way it went. “I remember my first experience on [Findlay’s] campus,” she recollected. “and, after going to two different buildings not knowing exactly what department I should be in, someone called another department to make sure I was being sent to the right place. She then personally walked me to the next office to be sure I would get what I needed before she left me.” Buchman was finding out what makes UF tick, and she was impressed with what she was learning. “I was in awe of the respect for me and my time,” she added.
Buchman, whose sister-in-law and brother [UF’s University Stores Manager, Jay Canterbury] are both alumni, and whose niece is currently a sophomore at UF, explained that she found one of her already existing attributes being strengthened by her time as an Oiler, an attribute that would lead her to where she is currently. “While working toward my master’s, all the professors were aware I took classes at night and taught during the day. So, they allowed us to take assignments in a direction that would benefit our classrooms and schools in a more authentic way,” she said. She not only found herself learning as a teacher but learning also as a leader; so much so, she said, that she started taking on leadership roles in her district and county.
So, it only makes sense that she would point herself once again toward an even bigger role as a leader. During a Bible Study one day, she said, she began to feel a calling into administration. And where did she return to hone her leadership skills? The place where she witnessed so many leaders once before. “Of course, the easiest part of the decision was to come back to UF,” she said.
With the advent of “new” technology, however, Buchman, rather than having to worry about navigating her way around campus like she did the first time, now faced a different challenge. “I completed my principal degree online. It was the first time I had taken any online classes.” She explained her concern that, since she wouldn’t be on campus, she’d simply be a “faceless student.” “I was definitely wrong,” she said. “All the teachers were eager to hear from and talk with their students if they needed help. Several of my teachers and my advisor even gave advice on taking the licensure test and tips for negotiating a contract, which was above and beyond.”
Buchman, married for fifteen years with three children, clearly knows how to be a successful team member and leader. She completed the Principal Licensure program at UF this past summer and was hired as the assistant principal in June. And, to put to rest any doubt, she is definitely and absolutely more than ready to get back to school with the students and staff at Otsego Elementary, and she has a certain gratitude toward those who helped her along the way. “I feel incredibly prepared to take on this new role,” she said, “and I know if I need any support, I can reach out to my former professors and they will be more than willing to help. My time at UF helped me understand how to communicate effectively in a leadership role and led me to where I am today. I owe many of my leadership skills to the UF professors.”