Eliza J. McWilliams earned her doctorate of education from Central Michigan University. McWilliams’  dissertation synopsis, “Male Teachers in Early Childhood Education,” documents the experiences  of male teachers working with young children in early childhood education.

Eliza J. McWilliams earned her doctorate of education from Central Michigan University. McWilliams’ dissertation synopsis, “Male Teachers in Early Childhood Education,” documents the experiences of male teachers working with young children in early childhood education.

Photo provided by Central Michigan University


Lifelong learner earns university doctorate at age 70

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published May 13, 2019

WARREN — If you look around at early childhood programs and elementary schools, there are very few male teachers, according to educator Eliza J. McWilliams.

It’s a topic she is so interested in that she wrote her college doctorate dissertation on the subject.

After years of studying and hard work, McWilliams earned her doctorate of education, or Ed.D, from Central Michigan University. On May 3, the 70-year-old Warren resident walked across the stage in CMU’s Plachta Auditorium in Warriner Hall to participate in the school’s doctoral commencement ceremony to receive her doctorate in educational leadership.

McWilliams’ dissertation synopsis, “Male Teachers in Early Childhood Education,” documents the experiences of male teachers working with young children in early childhood education, or ECE. Her study focuses on a lack of men in ECE and stresses the need for more male teachers as positive role models, especially for children in fatherless households.

Her dissertation states that men don’t pursue careers in early child education because they fear “scrutiny for child sexual abuse, homosexuality and pedophilia, and enduring division of labor that force male teachers into disciplianarian roles or physical work.”

“Men are seen as threats,” she said. “They’re under suspicion. Society needs to come to grips with that.”

Because of this, “you’re depriving children from 50% of the population,” she said. She believes men also shy away from the field because it’s on a lower pay scale. Another issue is “you have to have additional credentials to even teach it.”

She would like to see that change.

“Giving voice to the unique experiences of male teachers working in ECE may help the public and the ECE sector broaden their perceptions, change their attitudes and suggest alternative ways of seeing gender roles in the ECE profession,” her dissertation states.

Another component of earning her doctorate was to present and defend her dissertation to a panel on April 26 at CMU.

McWilliams holds an associate of science from Wayne County Community College. And from Wayne State University she has a Bachelor of Science in guidance and counseling; a master of arts in teaching, certified up to the eighth grade with a specialization in social studies; an early childhood endorsement; and an educational specialist degree in special education with a speciality in learning disabilities.

McWilliams touched lives as a teacher in both general education and special education in Detroit Public Schools. She retired after 39 years of teaching, and then went back to school in September 2013 to pursue her doctorate.

“I could have made it in less time, but I had to take off for serious illness,” she said.

McWilliams had to suspend her studies briefly when she underwent surgery in December 2018 to clear a blocked carotid artery. She also will need a hip replacement soon.

McWilliams attended class at the CMU satellite facility in Livonia. She attended class from 6 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. She also did work online. The devoted student often woke up at 6 a.m. to begin her studies, would rest for a few hours and then be right back to it. Often, she could not turn off her brain.

“When I would go to sleep at night, I would think of something, pop up in the middle of the night and write,” she said.

McWilliams chose CMU educational leadership professor Barbara Klocko as her dissertation chair — someone who advises and guides students through the process. The two first met six years ago.

“I think she’s brilliant … the way she worked through her medical condition and still stayed the course,” Klocko said of McWilliams. “Her topic was worth researching.”

Education has always been at the forefront for McWilliams, primarily because of her father, Benjamin James McEaddy, who lived from 1886 until his death in 1971. McWilliams dedicated her dissertation to him.

“I was extremely close to my father,” said McWilliams, who was an avid reader as a child, a trait she carried over to adulthood. “He was 63 when I was born. Dad died when I was 22. My mother was 24 when I was born. My father was a college professor at Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. He taught algebra for 22 years. He retired before my birth.”

McWilliams was the third oldest of nine children. She always remembers her dad telling her, “Daughter, I want you to get a good education so you can be prepared to take care of yourself. He was a women’s libber before it became fashionable.”

She also said her father is the grandson of former slave master Titus McEaddy and the son of an emancipated/former slave also named Titus McEaddy. McWilliams attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit. She has traveled across the U.S., Europe and visited West Africa, Grenada, Venezuela and Aruba. She plans to travel more and is currently writing a book about her life.