Victoria Hollar struck while the iron was hot.
The Kansas City native started the online Master of Science in Education in curriculum and instruction program at Northwest Missouri State University a few weeks after she graduated with a bachelor's degree in special education and elementary education from Northwest in December 2017.
"I made the master's degree my goal the last trimester of my last year," Hollar said. "I talked to a lot of teachers, including teachers that were just starting to get their master's degrees. When I was student teaching, there was one who was telling me that she was getting her master's and stopped.
"Now, she's doing it again and said she might stop again because she doesn't know if she can do it. It's tough when you get older, life hits and you have your own classroom to take care of. I couldn't imagine doing this any other way."
Hollar, the first person in her family to earn a college degree, already has her first full-time teaching job lined up. She will start as a special education teacher at an elementary school in Maryville while she completes the master's degree program in fall 2018.
Hollar works for an early childhood program in the mornings and as a nanny in the afternoons.
"I'm really organized, so it isn't overwhelming," she said. "I have plenty of time to get everything done. It would be a lot harder with kids and everything. I really made it my goal that I wanted to do this right away. I'm in the groove of school and studying. I've always liked school, so that wasn't a problem for me."
Becoming a Bearcat
Hollar initially had some interest in becoming a dentist until she volunteered at a camp for kids with disabilities while she was in high school.
"I knew I had a passion for it and decided that was a change I wanted to make in my career," she said. "I never pursued dentistry. I started my freshman year teaching. I haven't changed my degree at all the past four years."
After finishing high school, Hollar looked at several higher education options before choosing Northwest.
"I had only heard about Northwest," she said. "I looked at larger schools and went and visited, and I felt like they weren't for me. I was the only one of my friends who came to Northwest. I love it."
Hollar earned her bachelor's degree on campus and planned to do the same for the master's degree program, but she has enjoyed the ability to work on school any time of the day in the online format.
"That's just what they had available for the course, so I rolled with it," she said. "It has worked out well. I'm able to make a little bit of extra money for savings. It's nice to have that flexibility. I can imagine it will be even more important when I'm teaching in the fall while I will be finishing up."
Hollar has completed one block of two courses in the online master's in curriculum and instruction program, but she has already learned quite a bit. Her favorite course, so far, is EDUC 61606: Culture and Student Engagement.
"I loved the setup of that class," she said. "It was organized. It was so easy to follow. The instructor provided us with all of the articles and everything we needed to read. She gave us multiple articles for specific topics. There were responses during our discussions, so I felt like I got a grasp on so many things that I had heard before, like growth mindset or fixed mindset, but I never actually grasped it until this course."
The only question Hollar had for the professor in that course was about working in an office as opposed to teaching in a classroom.
"I had to ask if I could use the information from my student teaching," she said. "Other than that, everything was so well-organized and so easy to understand that I didn't have any questions. The professors definitely email you within 24 hours or so."
The faculty is one of the primary reasons Hollar stayed at Northwest.
"These teachers at Northwest are so understanding," she said. "They know that we are teachers, and one week can look completely different than the next week. They work with you in any way. They answer your questions as quickly as possible.
Eye on the Prize
Hollar has received a lot of support from her friends and family throughout her last four-plus years in college. She has recommended the M.S.Ed. in curriculum and instruction online program to a friend in South Dakota who enrolled, too.
"My dad was in the military, and my mom went to school to be a flight attendant," she said. "My dad always wished he had that college experience. Getting a master's was definitely something that my parents wanted me to do. They're so supportive and so proud. They have grown to love Northwest and everything it has done for me and provided me as a student."
Learn more about Northwest's online MSEd. in Curriculum & Instruction program.
Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.