Education is more than just the years spent in a classroom. For some, getting an education is the first step toward achieving their primary professional goal. For others, it’s a requirement to launch themselves into a specific career or field of study. For Dr. Darlene Breaux, an ACU Online alumna from our Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program, pursuing higher education is so much more than this. Read on to learn about Dr. Breaux’s journey to Texas and ACU Online, her impressive career as a Department of Education director and school district board member, and how she’s discovered that education is a lifestyle and vocational calling for her.
On the Road to Education
Dr. Breaux didn’t start as the superstar director of research and evaluation for the Harris County Department of Education and a board member of Alief Independent School District in Houston, Texas. Before all this, Dr. Breaux was one of nine children growing up in West Virginia, where it wasn’t a guarantee or expectation that she’d go to college. But, Darlene persisted and earned her way into Marshall University, becoming the first in her family to go to college.
Still, that didn’t mean she was meant to graduate from Marshall. Expressing her hatred for cold, icy weather, Dr. Breaux went searching for warmer places where she could comfortably earn her education and maybe even make better connections. Fast forward to the summer of her sophomore year, Dr. Breaux vividly remembers visiting her sister in Houston, Texas, where she immediately fell in love with the people, climate, and atmosphere. Begging her parents to let her move to Texas, she maneuvered her way to becoming a Texas resident and finishing her undergraduate studies at Texas Southern University (TSU). According to her, “it was really not just about the weather but also just the people and the diversity [..] West Virginia will always be there, but Houston is my home.”
Completing her bachelor’s degree in psychology from TSU, Dr. Breaux then began her professional career as a Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher at a private school—before she launched herself into obtaining her master’s degree in educational management with a principal certification at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.
Getting hooked on learning and specializing in the educational system, Dr. Breaux continued her impressive career by working in a mental facility for children. After witnessing what her patients were going through, she wondered if her efforts would make a greater impact if she focused more on improving educational systems for children from within. “I just kept telling myself like, ‘man, if I could only get into that classroom, maybe I could prevent or delay some of these kids ending up in a psychiatric hospital or residential facility,” Breaux said. Moved by their responses and emotional ties to how much influence a teacher can have on a student, Dr. Breaux decided to dive head-first into her new mission of obtaining a teaching certification. She wasted no time and ultimately began working toward building her career in the educational system of Harris County.
A Rising Star In-and-Out of the Classroom
Initially recruited as the curriculum director for special population students for the Harris County Department of Education, Dr. Breaux learned about the various needs of her community, including those with learning and language differences. In light of her child development and research expertise, Dr. Breaux was promptly promoted to the director of the Research and Evaluation Institute. While creating countless initiatives for Harris County students and faculty members, Dr. Breaux still felt like something was missing. It wasn’t enough to just complete a project and move on with her day. She wanted to enact change. She felt like there was still more to learn about educational leadership and maybe more to learn about herself as a woman of color in the education system.
Once again, she was on the search for more knowledge to support her vision to enact educational reforms for minority students. Looking for a program that focused on enriching her professional experience, Dr. Breaux found out about ACU Online’s Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program and immediately knew this was something she needed to do. Having the opportunity to take classes with other working professionals in education, she learned how to view education from different perspectives and how she could tie more about herself as a leader, educator, and believer.
Throughout her time in the program, Dr. Breaux received several recognitions, including winning the “Outstanding Dissertation Award” from the Texas Council of Professors of Educational Administration for her work titled Teachers’ Perceptions Regarding Dyslexia Professional Development Training for Addressing the Social-Emotional Needs of Children With Dyslexia. On top of that, she was also profiled by Psychology Today for her contributions to the book Black and Brown Leadership and the Promotion of Change in an Era of Social Unrest, as well as Texas School Business magazine where she was highlighted as a “Thought Leader and Innovator in Education.”
And while she was praised by many, Dr. Breaux’s biggest takeaway during her time as an ACU Online student was hearing about the power of vocational callings.
Stepping Back and Leaning In
Toward the end of her degree program, Dr. Breaux remembered having conversations with spiritual mentors and professors about how she could link between professional and vocational callings. “During our program at ACU, they emphasized that we all have a vocational calling, which is something that really stuck with me [..] Through much prayer and meditation, I just felt like I’ve been called,” Dr. Breaux says. After graduating with her Ed.D. in August 2020, Dr. Breaux felt like her vocational calling was telling her something she never thought she would do – retire from her beloved profession.
In September 2022, Dr. Breaux chose to listen and decided to retire after 25 years in hopes of serving her “soul’s passion.” Dr. Breaux acknowledges that the Ed.D. program “pushed [her] to believe and ask [herself], ‘what is my calling?’ Now, stepping out of her comfort zone, Dr. Breaux reminds others that everyone is “created for a purpose.” Her purpose was always there. She just needed to be “still enough to find it and hear it.”
In a way, letting go of what she knew was her form of surrender. And while she has only recently begun to enjoy the small pieces of peace that surrounded her once-hectic life, Dr. Breaux remains optimistic, enlightened and even has started preparing herself for her new orders whenever and wherever they lead her.
Having inspired countless educators and women in leadership, Dr. Breaux hopes to continue her efforts to enact real change from the bottom to the top. Whether she continues to serve on local and state-level education boards or focuses on consulting upcoming professionals, one thing is for sure: Dr. Breaux is transitioning into her next phase, full of greatness and grace.
Do you want to find your vocational calling like Dr. Darlene Breaux? Visit our website or call 855-219-7300 to learn how you can step into a fulfilling, innovative future at ACU Online.