Principal graduates with his students

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— Soroco High School's 25 seniors aren't the only students graduating this month.

Principal James Chamberlin graduated from Colorado State University on May 12 with a PhD in human resource and education.

Chamberlin said he has been working toward his degree since 1999, taking weekend classes with fellow PhD degree-seekers from the Western Slope at CSU and Mesa State College in Grand Junction.

Throughout the process, Chamberlin continued to work as Soroco Middle and High School's principal, trying not to miss any school events.

His drive to achieve the goal was helped by the support of his Soroco colleagues, his wife, Amy, and 3-year-old son, Mason, he said.

"The district has been very flexible and supportive of me," he said.

Chamberlin said he was drawn to CSU's program because it allowed him to continue working; other doctorate programs in Colorado would have required Chamberlin to take a sabbatical.

The last hurdle Chamberlin jumped before receiving his doctorate was finishing the dissertation he began three years ago and defending it May 4.

"I'm excited I'm finally done with it. It felt really good to graduate because my grandparents were both educators in (Denver Public Schools) for 30 years, and they were both able to be there. It's the first PhD in our family," he said.

Although receiving his PhD may have been a personal achievement, Chamberlin's wife, Amy, said she thinks Chamberlin is a good example to his students by showing them how important continuing education is.

"He's not asking the kids to do anything he hasn't done. He's not just a disciplinarian, he goes to school, too," she said. "That's something he lives by -- lead by example. He's not someone who just preaches; he does it."

Chamberlin expects to use the knowledge he has gained the past seven years to improve his skills and to better Soroco, he said.

"Part of the process is to continue growing, improving and learning. That's how I looked at it," he said.

Chamberlin said one of the things that motivated him to get his degree was a little race he and Amy were having. The Chamberlins are expecting their second child in November, and Amy said that if he didn't get his degree by November, he was never going to get it.

"I won," he said.

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