After earning a bachelor's degree at Northwest Missouri State University, Melanie Schoening had initially planned to go elsewhere for an advanced degree. However, the affordability and convenience of Northwest's online options compelled her to reconsider.
"I had looked into a couple of master's degree programs at an education fair, but knowing the cost at Northwest, down to the penny, was very nice.
"I also liked knowing that the program would be done in 10 classes, and it was my choice how many classes I took at a time. I love Northwest so much that I couldn't leave. It was a no-brainer."
Schoening graduated from Northwest's online Master of Science in Education in Reading in May 2021. Though her bachelor's degree was in education, she felt that she needed a master's to be a more effective teacher.
"Reading and literacy was an area I wanted to focus on," she said.
The flexibility of the online format was especially important to Schoening, who teaches special education at Glenwood Community School District in Iowa. She also became a first-time mother halfway through the program. She and her husband, Cody, have a 10-month-old son.
"It was all self-paced, so I worked on it when I had time," she said. "That made it very manageable. I worked on school at 2 a.m. sometimes.
Having some of the same professors as she did as an undergraduate student boosted her comfort level in the online program even more.
Schoening, who grew up near Kansas City, Missouri, planned on a career in healthcare when she first enrolled in college.
"I didn't love nursing or wake up excited about it every day," she said. "I figured I needed to find something else. It was too early in a career to not love something.
"I went home to try to figure out my life. I worked for an early childhood center for a year. In that experience, I realized that teaching was probably what I should have gone into in the first place."
In high school, Schoening participated in a program where she volunteered in an elementary school for 50 hours and earned community college tuition.
"I completed that program in a kindergarten classroom, and I loved every second of it," she said.
After one year at Metropolitan Community College – Maple Woods, she transferred to Northwest and graduated as an elementary education and special education K-12 dual major in 2016.
Schoening gained valuable knowledge and enhanced her skills with each of the courses in the online MSEd. in Reading curriculum.
"Graduate Elementary Literacy Practicum was my favorite because of the students that I got to work with," she said. "I definitely use what I learned in the program in my classroom."
Because of the asynchronous nature of the online format, Schoening said that accountability is key to success in the MSEd. in Reading program.
"You have to put in the effort that the professors ask for," she said. "It is definitely self-paced. No one is going to check in with you to see if you did your reading assignment. If you don't do it, you are not going to get your max value or max dollar out of it."
Schoening was on track to graduate in December 2020, but she had to take a couple of semesters off. That situation couldn't have worked out much better.
"My sister, Alana Hollingsworth, also graduated with a bachelor's in elementary education from Northwest," she said. "In a non-COVID-19 year, they wouldn't have the graduate and undergraduate ceremonies the same year. They did this year, so we walked together."
Plus, Schoening landed a job with her current district for the 2020-21 school year while she was still enrolled in the master's degree program. She currently teaches sixth grade, but she will shift to fourth grade next year.
"The degree will definitely open up lots of opportunities," she said. "When I was applying for my special education job, my master's degree in reading definitely gave me a leg up in the application process. I got good value out of the program."
Although Schoening loves teaching, she is open to taking on new challenges in her career.
"I am planning on staying in the classroom as long as I still love it," she said. "Being happy in your career is a crucial component to being an effective teacher. Someday it would be really cool to be a professor."
If that happens, perhaps she could have another Northwest homecoming.
Learn more about Northwest's online MSEd. in Reading program.
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