Going Above and Beyond


Earning the title of “Doctor” is not an easy task. It is a process that requires years of hard work coupled with mental and physical discipline. To earn a PhD in a subject is essentially learning as much as possible in that field. It is labeled the “terminal degree.”

Medina High School has the honor of having two teachers that have gone above and beyond by completing the very difficult process of earning a PhD.

Dr. Wolzek is a Spanish teacher here at MHS. She has an undergraduate, a masters, and a doctorate degree in Spanish, making for a total of 12 years of college. She obtained her degrees through Kent State University.  

Dr. Brantner, a MHS graduate, spent a total of 13 years at the University of Akron. He started as a science education undergrad and then earned a master’s degree in biology. He then pursued his doctorate while finishing his master’s. He often jokes that he had just finished “25th grade.”

During Dr. Brantner’s interview he reminisced about his time at the university. “It tests you in so many more ways than academics. It will test you emotionally, it will test you mentally and it will test you physically. There are so many stages throughout. There are checkpoints, so two years in, there will be tests that are the worst of your life. They are called qualifying exams.”

The students write their dissertation, then defend their work to a committee where these students are judged on how well they know their information.

“I had five people on my committee, it’s normally five or six but the rule of thumb is that the less people you have, the less people you have to impress,” Dr. Brantner said laughing.

Dr. Brantner explained the committee process, “My rule is pick your committee first because you need to know who plays nice with one another committee wise. If they don’t get along they will use your defense as a means to show who knows more between them, with you in the background.”

Dr. Wozlek lived this nightmare. “During my dissertation defense, two of my committee members, started to yell at each other over resonance vs. relevance. Is it more important to have relevance in a study, or is it more important that it resonates with a lot of people? They took up a good ten minutes yelling at each other. I’m off the spotlight.”

Dr. Brantner said, “If you have a good committee a lot of the time what they’ll do is prep you, but their prep is normally, ‘know this entire topic.’ I was given a book on geometric biology and fundamentals of bacterial genetics, and they said ‘pretty much just know all of this’.”

One of the questions that Dr. Wozlek had, pertained to exclusion vs. marginalization. For that question they told her to know ‘Social Boundaries.’ “That can mean so many different things to so many different people,” she said.

Wozlek said, “It’s a rigorous process.”  

From there, the students spend a year studying for their final dissertations.

Dr. Brantner said, “You amass so much (information) in a short amount of time for those exams for the written part, for the oral, for the proposal defense, and the proposal. At least for the science part, you are proposing, these are the experiments you will do in the next three years. Do you have the money to do them? That’s the other thing, cause it’s not cheap or free.”

Obtaining a doctorate degree is not cheap in the slightest. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average total price of a Doctorate degree at a public school in the 2007-2008 school year reached $23,200 each year. Private school tuition during the same year rose to $35,800 annually.

A typical doctoral program takes five full-time years to complete, bringing the total cost between $123,500-$181,500, depending on whether the student goes to a public or private school (nces.ed.gov).

Dr. Wozlek added the money up and it would take approximately seven years of employment to break even with her doctorate degree on top of her undergraduate and Master’s degree.

The cost required to gain a doctorate in teaching often proves even more challenging than one outside of teaching. Usually in a field, the more experience the employee has, the higher the demand. Unfortunately, this does not apply to doctorates in teaching.

Dr. Wozlek explained, “It’s an inherent issue with education (as a field) to begin with, the more experienced you are, the less desireable you are.”

The cost of obtaining the degree is pretty high, the job is hard to find, what about pay? Dr. Brantner said that the pay is generally higher by the amount of experience you have.

Dr. Wozlek explained, however, that not a lot of schools have a pay increase for PhDs.

One of the most surprising aspects of the program is how isolated and alone one starts to feel going through the process. “You go through the classes with people then you start researching and you feel so solitary. All the contacts you have kind of fall off and all of a sudden you are doing your work by yourself.”

Dr. Brantner talked about walking around campus just to see people. He said, “It’s you, the computer, and silence all day everyday. You dread it a lot.”

Dr. Wozlek continued, “Every step of the way you are pushed. Sometimes it feels like they are being mean to be mean. The moment you are actually called Doctor after being pushed and taunted for years, it doesn’t feel natural. Suddenly you are part of a club and you don’t even realize the initiation is over with.”

So in the end, the last question was simply “Why do it?” Both teachers overwhelmingly agreed it benefited the classroom greatly and taught them about time management.

Dr. Wozlek commented, “I also taught adjunct at John Carroll. So, for me I was doing the doctorate, working full time, and had a newborn child. That was beside grading papers and doing conferences so I had to be very strict on budgeting my time.

Dr. Brantner also agreed about budgeting time when he said, “It definitely teaches you more about yourself and more about time management than anything else. There are not enough hours in the day sometimes for what you need to get done”
Dr. Wozlek answered, “I think differently, I analyze differently and I come to conclusions differently than I ever did before starting the program. I think the growth that you have as a person is worth the amount of money; it’s immeasurable. It was worth every penny that I spent on it although it’s not necessarily tangible dollars.”