Teachers return to school to advance their education

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Teachers return to school to advance their education

By Brently Probacso, Harrisonville HS, Harrisonville, Mo.

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Students often complain about how homework and school interfere with everyday life. Little do students realize that many teachers throughout the building are struggling with the same, everyday complications.

Many teachers throughout the building are continuing on with their education. Though many have received their Master’s degree, some are still working towards it. Special education teacher Carol Cunningham is just one of many.

Cunningham attends class both online and at the University of Central Missouri at the Summit Center, where she is expected to be present for a two hour class every other Thursday. She is currently working towards her Master’s in Literacy.

Cunningham is also a mother and wife while being a teacher and must deal with the ramifications that come with being a student.

“Being a student definitely affects my daily life because it eats up all my free time,” said Cunningham. “I take my homework everywhere I go. I try to get as much done on the weekends as I can since the week nights are so busy. The good thing is that everyone in my house is doing homework at the same time. My family is very supportive of my education. My husband is the one who has always pushed me along. He knows the value of it and the model it is to our girls.”

My husband is the one who has always pushed me along. He knows the value of it and the model it is to our girls.”

— Carol Cunningham, special education teacher

Though it may hold these many effects on her, Cunningham feels that being a student helps her with her own teaching.

“Honestly, still being a student is really good for me as a teacher,” said Cunningham. “Sometimes I feel like I am not smart enough to do the level of work [my professors] are requiring. I just have to break bigger assignments up into smaller tasks and complete them that way. I tell my students when I am asking them to do something challenging that I feel their pain. I explain to them how I get overwhelmed with my school work as well.  So I think it really helps me be more empathetic.”

Cunningham is not the only teacher going to school on the side of her work and family. Several teachers are going to school for their administration degree.

Math teacher Allison Willson attends class with social studies teacher Eric DeVenney, and they are both currently working towards their Education Specialist in Secondary Administration. After attending five-hour classes every Wednesday for the past seven semesters, the two are expected to graduate this upcoming summer.

Though their classes are not exactly like those high school students experience, they do have their challenges.

“There are a lot of PowerPoints, papers and group projects, and maybe one or two tests,” said Willson. “You don’t really have homework like in high school, you just have projects you have to get done.”

DeVenney, like Cunningham, feels that these classes have strengthened him in his own career.

“It has helped me be a better teacher from the content that I have learned, but it has also helped me be a better teacher because I have had to remember what it was like to be a student again,” said DeVenney. “I talk to my students about being nervous about asking questions in class, study methods and test taking skills which are important life lessons as well.”

Willson finds that the hardest struggle is managing her time with work and family.

“There are times I have to take off from work,” said Willson. “That sounds bad, but you have to do whatever it takes to get through the course. There are also times I wake up early on a Saturday or Sunday when my family is sleeping in and go somewhere to work. It also helps to have good friends.”

DeVenney’s secret to staying on task and getting it all done he accredits to his spouse and kids, along with changes in his sleep pattern.

“I am blessed to have a great wife and wonderful family that have help support me in this program,” said DeVenney. “It sometimes causes our schedule to be crazy and sometimes means that we can’t fit things in but we try to make everything work. I don’t sleep much and my wife has super powers.”

Willson did not necessarily have a long-term goal in mind when she started but in time since, that has changed.

“I got into the program because my friends were doing it,” said Willson. “I figured if they could do it, then I could do it. Now, I’ve been teaching for 16 years and when I first started I never thought I’d have what it takes to be a principal. They’ve since developed a leader in me.”

Social studies teacher Emily Terwilliger just recently began the path to receive her Master’s in Administration, along with special education teacher Matt Hague.

“It’s something I’ve always seen myself doing,” said Terwilliger. “I just feel like I make an impact on students’ lives as a teacher and doing it in the administrative role feels like the next step.”

Terwilliger also feels the pull Willson feels between family, work and school.

I feel like my time is more valuable than it has ever been. I feel like I don’t do justice to my family if I spend a lot of time lesson planning for school and doing homework for my degree, so I try to commit my weekends to my family.”

— Emily Terwilliger, social studies teacher

“I feel like my time is more valuable than it has ever been,” said Terwilliger. “I feel like I don’t do justice to my family if I spend a lot of time lesson planning for school and doing homework for my degree, so I try to commit my weekends to my family.”

Terwilliger has had to find ways to stay on top of her busy schedule.

“I make a lot of lists as well as use my paper and Google calendar,” said Terwilliger. “I’m quite effective at the reminder feature of the Google calendar.”

Hague also uses lists, along with using any available time to his advantage.

“Any time I have that is ‘free,’ I make sure I am doing what I need to do,” said Hague.

Hague not only deals with the typical family and work, but coaches on the side.

“It’s tough, especially coaching basketball,” said Hague. ‘I know there are nights my wife and I miss each other and it’s hard. It’s about time management and you have to fit everything you need to do into 24 hours.”

Hague’s inspiration started from within his own family.

“My brother is a principal and I see that he enjoys it,” said Hague. “I also like responsibility and being a leader and motivating people to do their best. I also like the business aspect like budgeting and the idea of building relationships with students, teachers and other staff.”

Hague’s idea of going from teaching the class to being the student is, in a way, nice.

“It’s honestly kind of fun,” said Hague. “Being a teacher you have to be serious so it’s nice to be a student and sit back and learn. It’s also nice to joke around and tell stories with your peers who are teachers just like you.”

Being a teacher you have to be serious so it’s nice to be a student and sit back and learn.”

— Matt Hague, special education teacher

Special education teacher Jonathan Benson is also in class with Terwilliger and Hague.

“I wanted to continue my education and while I like being a teacher now, I’d like to be a principal one day,” said Benson.

Benson’s latest strategy to deal with the craziness is setting aside one night a week for his class work.

“I have started trying to do all my homework on Sunday nights so that when we come back to school on Monday or Tuesday I don’t have to worry about it,” said Benson.

Though these teachers are still involved in the course, personal finance teacher Mark Rorvig received his degree in administration in the summer of 2011.

“First of all, I got it done before I had a family,” said Rorvig. “Second, as a teacher, and by getting it earlier, I have more time to observe between being a teacher and an administrative.”

Rorvig’s advice for those who plan on getting their administration degree is basic.

“To anybody that does it, I’d say start early and get as much help as you possibly can,” said Rorvig.