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SCA teacher, mother of eight, earns doctorate

By Jennifer Cragg

Special to the News-Herald

Suffolk Christian Academy therapy teacher DawnMarie Brittingham, a mother of eight, believes in no excuses while pursuing her educational goals. She recently obtained her educational doctorate degree on April 26.

DawnMarie Brittingham, who has been employed by SCA since 2003, graduated from Southeastern University with a doctorate in organizational leadership. Brittingham is one of many SCA employees who have returned to the classroom to obtain their master’s and doctoral degrees for the benefit of the students attending the private Christian school.

“We have a vast degree of teachers who have pursued higher educational pursuits, which directly benefit our student body,” said Tamra VanDorn, SCA headmaster.

Brittingham specialized in organizational therapy while attending Southeastern and graduated alongside more than 530 students who received their doctoral, master’s and undergraduate degrees. Brittingham sought a degree in organizational leadership to further expand her outreach to students who attend SCA.

“I think that when you invest this much time into education, the benefit to the student is the knowledge and experience that you gain,” said Brittingham, who added that the degree also offers her a different perspective when building specific programs to benefit her students.

With less than 1 percent of the U.S. population seeking a doctorate, Brittingham’s students will academically profit from her dedication to academic excellence.

“It is one of the elements that adds a specialty to our school,” said Brittingham. “If a child is struggling, or learning takes them a bit longer to grasp, educational therapy gives them strategies, and teaches critical thinking to help them cope.”

Not only does educational therapy serve to close gaps and seams in educational cognition, but students have the capability to increase their mental acuity, added Brittingham.

In addition to her most recent doctoral degree, SCA’s educational therapist has also obtained a bachelor’s degree from Old Dominion University in the field of interdisciplinary studies and obtained a master’s degree from Southeastern University in the field of educational therapy.

A passionate pursuer of goals, Brittingham earned a Level 1 certificate from the National Institute for Learning Development in 2008. She completed the training program so as to build the competence and confidence of students with learning challenges who attend SCA.

“I wanted to work in a field using what I learned in the NILD program because I saw a cognitive difference,” said Brittingham, who has taught more than 40 students during her tenure at SCA.

At the end of the day, this mother of eight and full-time employee at SCA said Jesus has been her inspiration in obtaining her lofty educational pursuits.

“First of all, let me tell you that Jesus is awesome, and I could not have done this if He was not a part of the process,” said Brittingham. In addition, Brittingham credits her husband for his support and encouragement to pursue her educational goals.

“I have the most incredible husband, and I’m extremely thankful for the support from SCA to include Headmaster Tamra VanDorn, who gave me time at the end of the day to finish school requirements.”

Brittingham’s children do not lag behind in following in their mother’s footsteps. Five of her oldest children are in various stages in starting their college-bound journeys or graduating with their undergraduate degrees, one of which is a co-valedictorian of her class this year. Her remaining children, the youngest of whom is in first grade, have definite role models.

VanDorn, who was worked alongside Brittingham for more than a decade, is thankful for teachers who strive to glorify God while offering a disciplined curriculum sound in Christian teaching.

“We want to provide the very best for each student to include those who are struggling,” said VanDorn. “We are grateful to have teachers like Brittingham, who can figure out students’ learning deficiencies and provide them sound learning strategies and interventions to improve the overall learning process.”

Suffolk Christian Academy has a student body of nearly 250 students in grades pre-kindergarten and kindergarten through 12th grade.