Love of Teaching Inspires Outstanding Graduate to Make the World a Better Place

Love of Teaching Inspires Outstanding Graduate to Make the World a Better Place

Jesse Dolin, fall 2018 Islander Outstanding Graduate, earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership on Dec. 15. Dolin, who grew up traveling the world as part of an Army family, says his experiences have given him a well-rounded view of the world, as well as a belief that people, even complete strangers, are connected. Dolin is currently the principal of Mathis Elementary School.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – “We only have one life to live, so make it a great life – or not. The choice is yours.” These words are what Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi outstanding graduate Jesse Dolin lives by. Dolin, who will graduate on Dec. 15 alongside 880+ other Islanders, will receive a Doctorate in Educational Leadership.

Born to a father from West Virginia and a mother from a rural town in South Korea, Dolin grew up traveling the world as part of an Army family. He was born in Belgium and lived in multiple countries, including Germany and Japan. Dolin says his experiences have given him a well-rounded view of the world, as well as a belief that people, even complete strangers, are connected.  

“There’s this idea called ‘six degrees of separation,’ where we’re all connected to one another, and I have believed that since I was in elementary school,” said Dolin. “In third grade, I had a teacher, Mrs. Woods, who had a huge impact on me, and I realized from one class to another, teachers see so many lives year after year. If you believe in ‘six degrees of separation,’ then that’s a lot of lives you’re impacting. That’s when I knew I wanted to become a teacher.”  

The goal of becoming a teacher was one he would not only meet but surpass. Fresh out of college, Dolin took a leap of faith in 2004 and moved away from family and friends in Indiana to take a job as a fifth-grade teacher at Tuloso-Midway Intermediate School. After spending eight years in the classroom, he decided to pursue a Master of Education Administration at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi as a part-time student. This new degree is what inspired him to take the next step in his career and become an educational administrator. Dolin has been the principal of Mathis Elementary School since 2014.

“I didn’t get into the role of principal to get away from kids – teaching them was my dream job,” said Dolin. “But I knew that I would be able to make a larger impact across a larger number of students if I helped facilitate for the teachers who are working with them and changing their lives every day.”

As principal, Dolin engages with students daily. Each morning, he stands by the front door of Mathis Elementary to greet students as they enter the building.

“A lot of children lack confidence – the confidence to even say hello to someone – so that’s something I try to encourage in my students,” said Dolin. “Occasionally, I’ll also catch a student, who is, for whatever reason, having a bad morning and by just saying good morning, we can transition it into a positive day before school even gets started. I want to teach students to be able to start the school day strong so they have a happy and successful day.”

Balancing a full-time job plus rigorous doctoral courses was no easy feat.

“If it wasn’t for my professors in the College of Education and Human Development, I don’t know if I would have been able to complete this process,” said Dolin. “When I thought I wasn’t going to make it or couldn’t complete something, it was the staff and the professors who worked with me and supported me, especially because I don’t have any immediate family in Texas.”

One such professor is Dr. Israel Aguilar, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership.

“Jesse exemplifies an admirable work ethic, great character, fantastic writing skills, and is meticulous about the details,” said Aguilar. “His graduation isn’t the end, but instead the beginning of our collaborating since now he’s my colleague. It’s a very special moment in a professor’s life when that happens.”

Dolin leveraged his experience as both a teacher and principal when writing his doctoral dissertation, titled “The Relationship Between Teacher Leadership and Student Testing Scores.” In the study, he surveyed teachers from two districts involved in high-stakes testing, such as the STAAR or EOC tests, to find their leadership competency. He then compared the results of the teacher’s leadership competency results to the students’ test scores. Ultimately, Dolin found that teachers with higher leadership competency scores also had students with better testing performance. It’s his hope that his research will help teachers better integrate leadership behaviors into their instruction so they can better engage with their students.

“Jesse’s dissertation has a lot of impact for the profession of teaching,” said Aguilar, who is the co-chair of Dolin’s dissertation committee. “Anybody who picks up Jesse’s document can easily adopt the model, and perhaps then use some of those competencies and skill sets to grow themselves as a teacher-leader.”

After graduation, Dolin plans to further build his experiences through his principalship and the possibility of superintendent. He thanks his family in Indiana, including his parents and brother, for supporting him, even while he’s living more than 1,000 miles away. Dolin looks forward to wherever life takes him next, as long as he can make a positive impact along the way.

“On my deathbed,” said Dolin, “if someone were to ask me what I did with my life, I want to be able to say, ‘I did everything I could to make this world a better place.”