Earning a degree in the online Master of Science in Education in Curriculum and Instruction program at Northwest Missouri State University is a win-win situation for Shelby Baker.
"It wasn't an option for me to stop working," she said. "I recommend all of the teachers in the program. They have been so beneficial, and they are understanding and helpful when I need it. It's the perfect program for someone who works full time. I also love Northwest and have a strong connection to it."
Baker teaches at North Platte Elementary School in Camden Point, Missouri, and works part time at a winery. She completed the online degree program in July 2020.
"I knew that I would want to get my master's degree eventually," she said. "In the education world, you get to the top of the pay scale and that's the end. You have to continue your education. I also wanted to gain more information to be a better teacher in the classroom."
After Baker researched the program, the affordable tuition and fully online format sold her on the idea of becoming a Bearcat. It didn't hurt that several of her relatives had also attended the university.
"I heard great things about Northwest," she said. "The price point was also perfect. It was great for me to be able to do schoolwork whenever I could throughout the week.
"I was always going to have assignments due on Wednesdays and Sundays, so I planned my week accordingly. I've also been able to do it within one year, which was a big selling point."
Baker grew up in Liberty, Missouri, where she was considering a career in nursing before taking part in an educational internship program as a high school senior.
"I spent half of my day in the classroom helping and observing a teacher," she said. "I was in a first-grade classroom in the elementary school I attended with a veteran teacher who was retiring.
"I learned so much and fell in love with everything about the first grade. I was impressed with that teacher. Ever since then, I thought this is what I am meant to do. It was perfect timing."
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Missouri Western State University in 2016, Baker had a classroom of her own. She has taught first and second grade, but she will transition to kindergarten in 2020-21. She is also certified in early childhood education.
"When people ask me how my master's degree program is going, I tell them that with every single course I have taken, I have gotten something out of it to use in my classroom," she said. "I appreciate the applicability of the program."
EDUC 61687: Feedback and Goal Setting and EDUC 61642: Multicultural Education for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are Baker's two favorite courses in the curriculum.
"Feedback and Goal Setting was a big learning curve for me," she said. "It was definitely new information that I had never heard before, and I could implement it in my classroom the same semester I was learning it. That was awesome.
"The Multicultural class, which I recently finished, was also great. I thought it would be similar to the class we were required to take in undergrad, but it's been very different and reflective."
Raise a Glass
Baker is excited about applying the knowledge she gained in the online program to her classroom. In her free time, she and her boyfriend, Matt McConkey, enjoy visiting wineries, camping and boating. His sister, Mallory, plays basketball at Northwest.
"My friends and family are thrilled. I have a handful of friends who have seen me go through the program in one year, heard the price and are interested and already applying," Baker said.
She has a couple of potential career paths she could take once she gains some additional real-world experience.
"Originally, I wanted to do speech therapy as a language pathologist," she said. "A degree program in that area is rare, and the places that have it are extremely expensive. I pushed that to the side. We'll see if I can revisit it one day down the road.
"Now, I see myself being a curriculum and instruction coach. Only larger districts have that position, so we'll see if that's the case, but I am interested in doing that job. For now, the classroom is definitely where I want to be."
For the career path ahead, Baker believes the MSEd. in Curriculum and Instruction will help open up many opportunities.
"This degree is exactly what they want you to have if you're looking to be an instructional coach," she said. "I have definitely got good value out of the program.
"It's not easy, but it's manageable to do in one year while you're working full time. I have had such great responses from going through this program. I love it."
Learn more about Northwest's online MSEd. in Curriculum and Instruction program.
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