Because his calendar was full, it didn’t hurt that Heather, his wife, who happened to be a social studies teacher with her own coaching duties, was on the same professional track and in the same degree market.
“Actually, she did the research on distance learning and found that this was the program that would fit our schedules,” says Branigan, referring to Ball State’s MAE in educational administration and supervision. “We did the degree together around our evening coaching schedules.”
His wife’s career has mirrored his, before and after the master’s degree. As undergraduates at Ball State, both were varsity athletes, she as a softball player and he as a starting defensive lineman on a Cardinal football scholarship. Today, she too is an assistant principal.
Branigan’s grad school experience was like that of many students who find fraternity in common pursuits.
“Seven or eight of us formed a study group, a ‘collective,’ and met in our homes and at eateries,” he says. “It was an unofficial cohort which created a bond we needed.” Eventually, they all became building administrators, he says, and most still are today.
The academic bar went higher, says Branigan, once he began his master’s work.
“I even tell high school students that grad school is so different than the college experience,” he says. “For me, nothing was going to be acceptable but an ‘A.’ ”
Soon after he earned the MAE, a colleague who had pursued a master’s program elsewhere said she was impressed with his knowledge of school law and school finance.
“That made me feel good,” he says. “And the classes helped with that transition to administration.”
From an administrator’s viewpoint, Branigan sees more clearly how teachers, staff, and coaches can make the daily difference.
“These kids depend on you,” he says. “Every day we need to work with them until they hold their heads up high.”
Dr. Marilynn Quick, assistant professor of educational leadership, saw Branigan’s potential when he was serving a graduate level internship.
“Even as an intern, Evans focused on making a real difference for students,” she says.
She remembers how he mentored an elementary student, arranging for the boy to attend a high school football game and sit near the team bench. Then there was his recruitment of male role models from the community to interact with students in the hallways during mornings before school.
“All of us knew that Evans Branigan would quickly move up the leadership ladder,” says Quick.
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