Kelsey Kumsher searched high and low for the ideal graduate degree program. It turned out she simply needed to look at Northwest Missouri State University.
In August, Kumsher completed the Master of Science in Education in Special Education online program at Northwest. She enrolled in the program 12 months earlier.
"I absolutely knew while I was getting my undergraduate degree that I would eventually get my master's degree, but it was all about the timing," she said. "I did this program because Northwest is a teachers' school. Everyone knows that Northwest produces lots of quality teachers. Number two, the program was all online and affordable."
Kumsher will begin her fourth year teaching in the Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Missouri. She teaches essential skills special education in kindergarten through fifth grade at Chinn Elementary School.
Along with having real-world experience to prepare Kumsher for the master's degree program curriculum, she had two good reasons for becoming a student again.
"I'm not going to lie, one of the reasons was the money," she said. "As a teacher, you have to expand your knowledge in order to make more money. Of course, I also want to better my students. In order to do that, I had to go back and learn new techniques and new strategies to put in place in my classroom."
Kumsher graduated with a bachelor's degree in severely developmentally disabled special education from the University of Central Missouri in 2015.
"I tried to go to my alma mater and other universities in the Kansas City area, but none of them had fully online master's degree programs," she said. "Northwest had everything online, so I was able to make it work. I went to work, then came home at night and did my homework. It was really flexible because it was all online. It was basically all on my time."
Answering the Call
Kumsher grew up in the Kansas City area. Her mother guided her toward a career in special education. Several of her family members, including her father, John, also attended Northwest, so Kumsher was familiar with the University.
"In high school, my mom pushed me to be a teaching assistant for one of the special education classes within my high school," Kumsher said. "I helped with the teacher and the students, and I really fell in love with helping special education."
Throughout Kumsher's short time in the online M.S.Ed. in Special Education program, her family and boyfriend consistently encouraged her.
"They were supportive," she said. "They were all with me all the way. My boyfriend kept pushing me and saying, 'You need to finish your classes now.'"
Speaking of courses, one of Kumsher's favorites was Theories and Techniques of Behavior Analysis & Intervention.
"I learned a lot about interventions and techniques to use in my classroom in that course," she said. "In special education, there are a lot of different types of behaviors to know, so that class really stood out to me."
She also liked Multicultural Education for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, another course that was particularly applicable to her role in the classroom.
"My kids are diverse, but it's nice to think about how I can bring that diversity into the classroom," she said. "Doing so makes me more of a well-rounded teacher. During the school year, I applied some of those techniques I learned in the program into my classroom."
Kumsher, who enjoys traveling and spending time with her two dogs, loves her current job. However, she has an ultimate career goal outside of the classroom in mind.
"I would love to be a special education coach," she said. "They have an essential skills or autism coach who goes around to different schools and teaches the teachers. I would really love to do that someday."
When someday comes, Kumsher is confident the curriculum in the online M.S.Ed. in Special Education program at Northwest properly prepared her to meet that challenge.
"I definitely believe this degree will create several opportunities for me," Kumsher said. "Districts are looking for more teachers with master's degrees so they can have more experience.
"For anybody enrolling in the program, I would say take it slow and really focus on your classwork and get the most out of the master's program. It's a great program."
Learn more about Northwest's online MSEd. in Special Education program.
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