Randy Drost had his future — education and career — all mapped out.
“When I first started, I thought I was going to teach high school math and coach wrestling for 35 years,” he said. “Over time, things change and you see things differently. If you would have ever told me I was going to be a principal, let alone a superintendent, I would have said, ‘You’re crazy.’”
Drost earned a Master of Science in Education in Educational Administration PK-12 Principalship Track from the University of Wisconsin-Superior in 2005. He is on course to finish a Superintendent Certification from UW-Superior in May 2017, although he has already started a superintendent job at Rice Lake Area School District in Wisconsin.
“I was looking for additional challenges in my career,” Drost said. “I had started off accepting a Dean of Students position for which I didn’t need an administrative degree. I was in that for a couple of years. I decided I really wanted to pursue the principalship master’s and continue down that path, so that’s how I got started with it.”
Even through a couple of changes in direction in his career, Drost remains true to his school district.
“I was an assistant principal at the high school for five years,” he said. “Then, my last nine years I’ve been an elementary school principal. I taught for six years before that, so I’ve been in the district for 20 years. I was born and raised here, so I didn’t get far from home. I went to high school here, too.”
Plenty to Grapple
Drost was a wrestler in high school and at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he earned an undergraduate degree in 1995. He coached high school and middle school wrestling for 12 years before landing the principal position.
“I started out as a high school math teacher,” he said. “What drew me into education is I always enjoyed helping people learn new things. I felt like that was a niche for me. Once I was a teacher, seeing students learn and grow into young adults from the character aspect as well … I just really enjoyed that.”
Drost said he primarily went to school on campus for his master’s degree, but his Superintendent Certification was more weighted toward the online format.
“That’s worked well,” he said. “It’s been convenient. It helps when you’ve got a family. I’m two hours from campus, so anything I can do online is a significant help. I knew some other people who had gone through the program. They spoke well of it, so that’s what initially drew me to Superior.”
Drost said his first year on the job as a superintendent had been eye-opening — especially while still attending school.
“It’s been very interesting,” he said. “There’s a steep learning curve.”
He also knows his education at UW-Superior was key for him to once again take the next step in his career.
“My transition from working in a high school setting to being an elementary school principal and going through that program and the coursework associated with it helped me a lot,” Drost said. “If I didn’t have that degree, it wouldn’t have been possible. The same thing [with] moving into the superintendent role. They were willing to hire me while I was finishing up my coursework. Not having that certification was not an option.”
Drost said the curriculum in the MSE in Educational Administration PK-12 Principalship Track provided information he could use even while he was still teaching in the classroom.
“Especially things like School Law [EDAD 750], human resources and human relations,” he said. “Those things were definitely applicable immediately. Dr. Terri Kronzer is outstanding. She knows her material inside and out, has a lot of life experience leading up to teaching at the university level, and I have a lot of respect for her.”
Drost said his wife, Aleesha, and their three children, Victoria (16), Ben (11) and Clara (9), were supportive of his return to school to earn a master’s degree and principal certification followed by superintendent certification.
“They were excited,” he said. “I know my mom was especially very proud of me for going back and continuing my education, as was my whole immediate family — and my wife and kids.
“It’s important to show the kids that lifelong learning piece, and just because you graduate from whatever level it may be, you’re not done. Working to learn more and better yourself is important. Like graduation: Was it that big of a deal for me to go through graduation? No, but I wanted my kids to see that.”
Drost said that even as a graduate student, he felt a strong connection to UW-Superior and the smaller faculty-to-student ratio.
“I would say definitely take a look at UW-Superior,” he said. “Their professors are top-notch. They give you a lot of real-world application scenarios. They’re always there for you even after the course or after your degree. You can call any of them, have a conversation, ask them questions, and they are happy to help. I think that’s one of the key pieces. Even after the fact, you can use them as a key resource.”
Through his changing goals, career and educational path, Drost has learned to leave the door to different possibilities in the future wide open.
“As you’re in different roles, you say, ‘Well, maybe this, maybe that,’” he said. “For right now, this is my goal, and I’m very happy here. But, I’m not going to say I’m never going to do anything different.”
Learn more about the UW-Superior online MSE Educational Administration program.