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Pictured is the Fortelka family. Submitted photo.

Meet Madeline and Mark Fortelka, a Newport, Pa. couple enrolled in Point Park University's Ed.D. in Leadership and Administration online program. In the Q&A below, they share their thoughts on Point Park's program, as well as insights on raising two children while pursuing their degrees.

Meet Madeline Fortelka '23

Job title: Middle school life skills teacher
Employer: West Perry School District
Hometown:  Harrisburg, Pa.
High school: Harrisburg Academy
Hobbies/interests: Raising children and being able to experience the world through their eyes, talking about special education, hiking, gardening, eating really good food, talking to old friends and learning new things

How did you find out about Point Park?

We wanted a program in the same state in which we lived. As educators with certifications in three other states – New Hampshire, Wyoming and North Carolina – we have realized that Pennsylvania has stricter requirements for certifications. We learned about Point Park on the Pennsylvania Department of Education's list of accredited programs. Because we have two toddlers, we also wanted a program that was at least mostly online because we always need to be two places at once. An online program has helped us maintain a balance as there is less time spent traveling to class.  

What do you like about the Ed.D. program?

I am really enjoying being in a small cohort of people who have a lot of experience in the field of education and administration. I am on the greener side, I think, and I am actually very happy about that. I love reading their discussion posts and hearing their perspectives. We have a GroupMe, which I didn't know was a thing until I started the program. It is awesome, despite being virtual, to be able to chat and ask and answer questions with each other. I like the virtual camaraderie. 

You have two children, Tallulah and Celeste. What do they think of mom and dad tackling school together?

They are not aware now – we try really hard to have at least one of us be engaged and present at all times and that is not something we are willing to sacrifice. I am not willing to forgo time with my kids. If we do work at home, the other parent has a fun activity to do with the girls, or we work during our preps or after they're asleep. We find the time. One day, I hope they are proud of us. I want them to know they can do anything. As women, I want them to know that they don't have to sacrifice their career aspirations to be good parents (if they want to be parents). They can do it all, if they want, regardless of their sex. They belong anywhere they want to be. 

Pictured is the Fortelka family. Submitted photo.Meet Mark Fortelka '23

Job title: High school learning support teacher
Employer: West Perry School District
Hometown: Harrietta, Mich.
High school: Mesick High School
Hobbies/interests: Being outside with my kids, backpacking, athletics/fitness, board games and B-rated sci-fi movies

Why did you choose Point Park?

The biggest factor was the ability to combine a principal certification and a doctoral degree. Every other program I looked at required separate applications, different programs and a lot of red tape. Both would have been disconnected and I would have had to complete far more credits. At Point Park, both of my desires were integrated into a single program, with a single cohort all sharing the same desires I have.

What's it like squeezing online schooling into your already busy lives? How does Point Park's program make it doable?

We have both learned to do our best to avoid procrastination. I often work as far ahead as possible to allow myself the flexibility to take some time off to focus on family needs when necessary. Maddie and I both hate to waste any time throughout our days, so we have learned to be excellent time managers together. Being online and asynchronous with very supportive professors has made it much easier to fit our learning into the rare open moments in our day.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

When people hear that I am going back to school to get my doctorate as I am working full-time, raising two young children, and attempting to be the best partner I can be for my wife, their response is usually one of disbelief. However, when you desire a career or life goal that you are working towards hard enough, you can always find a way to take tangible steps toward it. Admittedly, we have had to make personal sacrifices primarily in the form of personal activities, and we tend to go to bed at around 8:30 p.m. every night, but it will all be worth it some day. Self-discipline is the greatest weapon you can have when pushing your limits as a student, partner and parent.

More About: educational administration, Ed.D. in leadership and administration, School of Education, success story, online programs, education