Music student turned third grade teacher

Robert Bullington started college right out of high school in 1995. He received a full music scholarship at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) in Tifton and was on the fast track to making music his full-time career.

For two years, he performed in musical groups across ABAC’s campus. Robert even joined the school’s jazz ensemble for a 14-day European tour. But, he soon discovered that being a musician was not what he wanted for the rest of his life. And he quickly became burned out from all the performances and preparation.

“I was practicing multiple hours a day, which left very little time to study for my core classes,” Robert said. “I was taking 10 to 12 hours of music classes, and my grades in core subjects suffered significantly.”

Robert didn’t want to keep going down this path. He decided to leave school and join the workforce.

There was a silver lining. During his final year at ABAC, Robert met his future wife, and the mother of his two children — the reason he would eventually go back to school and finish his degree. Having children changed Robert’s priorities, and he realized that although he was making a decent living, he wasn’t happy with his job.

So, in 2010, he returned to Valdosta State as a part-time student. He was given the flexibility of online courses and a strong education program.

Robert eventually transitioned to Georgia Southwestern University, which has a satellite program for early childhood education at ABAC’s campus. Living in Tifton, the program was incredibly convenient — he would be able to achieve the degree he always wanted minutes from his front door, saving both time and money.

Now, Robert is in his final weeks of student teaching and will be graduating from GSW this spring. He’s already been offered a position with an elementary school teaching third grade. All told, Robert earned three degrees: an associate degree in music, an associate degree in early childhood education and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

“The second time around was much easier than I expected,” Robert said. “I was much more motivated to complete my degrees, and I had my wife as a strong partner and support system. Having a wife and kids ‘separated me from the crowd,’ so to speak, but it allowed me to focus on graduating and my course work.”

“Being in the real world gave me an appreciation for education,” he said. “It has been a fantastic ride, and I would not change a thing.”