Elementary teachers Tessa Lurk and Nicole Robinson have a lot in common, including their enrollment in the MSEd. in Curriculum & Instruction – Teaching Technology online program at Northwest Missouri State University. They both have young children and live in the countryside near Perryville, Missouri.
"Tessa's not more than 15 minutes from me, and our little boys are besties," said Robinson.
The two share a love of the outdoors. Both also discovered their passion for teaching at a young age.
"I have a lot of younger cousins, and I was always caring for them and helping with homework. And I have two younger siblings as well," Lurk said. "It's a perfect fit for me because I enjoy children. I enjoy being with them and helping them grow and helping them love learning."
Robinson discovered her desire to teach by watching her mother. "I love teaching," she said. "I grew up with a mom who was a preschool teacher, and she was an awesome role model for working with kids. I knew I wanted to be a teacher since kindergarten."
The drive to nurture children led Robinson to earn her education degree from Southeast Missouri State University and Lurk to gain her bachelor's in teaching from Central Methodist University. The duo then ended up at Perryville Elementary School teaching the same grade.
"After that, I moved to third grade, and she [Robinson] stayed in fourth grade," said Lurk.
Rising to the Challenge
Neither Lurk nor Robinson had firm plans for a master's degree when an email about Northwest's online program landed in their inboxes and set the ball rolling. The pair had the immediate support of their husbands, families and friends, but that didn't mean they didn't have concerns.
Robinson said, "We were terrified because people who had taken their master's in another program had to meet till 9:00 p.m. every Wednesday night, and the last thing we want is to be away from our kids. I also wanted to make sure I was still getting what I needed to be successful for my work and for my career."
Lurk concurred, "I was very apprehensive about starting the program. Is the workload going to be okay? Am I going to be able to afford this? Can I put in this time and effort and still be able to keep my commitments to my family and to my students? All of that was running through my mind."
The women agreed that the online format, the affordable cost and the program structure made it easier to decide. What sealed the deal for them was hearing from a friend who had completed an online MSEd. through Northwest.
Both Lurk and Robinson wanted a classroom-focused program and chose Northwest's MSEd. in Teaching Technology because it allows them to improve education for their students.
Lurk believes the program gives her tools to help students with using technology. "I want to be able to prepare my students for the technological world that they're going to live in," she said.
Robinson added, "Technology is always a piece that we're going to need in the future, so we thought that we could work toward curriculum by getting better and growing in our teaching field." She believes that understanding teaching technology is "always going to be beneficial."
Path to Success
Once they enrolled in the program in October 2020, both Lurk and Robinson found ways to incorporate studies into their busy lives as teachers with families. Robinson has two children – Rhett (3) and Everly (10 months), and Lurk has a son, Quaid (3).
The duo credit mutual support with making the program more manageable.
"Nicole and I would just pick a day and we would stay after school for an hour or two to discuss exactly what we needed to do and how to go about getting it done. And that worked really well for us," Lurk said.
Robinson added, "My favorite part is being able to collaborate. I was really excited that Northwest had us working with a group and not doing it solo."
Doing well in a course showed Lurk that she could manage a work-life-school balance, and Robinson agreed that the online format and pace made getting the master's feel comfortable. They both recognize the program's value from the knowledge they have gained.
"I got a lot out of the Feedback and Goal Setting class and was able to put it toward my teaching immediately. It was very relevant to what I'm doing in the classroom as it is," Lurk said.
Robinson appreciates the applicability of the course materials to fostering growth and development for her young charges.
"I learned a lot about helping my students meet their goals and be successful by finding the missing pieces. That's been worth it as a teacher," she said.
The women have some advice for teachers who are thinking about enrolling in the MSEd. in C&I –Teaching Technology or in another online program.
"Just jump in. You'll find a way because that's what teachers do. Teachers are resilient, and they adapt to change. We always figure it out. We always find a way," Robinson said.
To those who need a push, Lurk says, "You're not going to regret it. It's going to better you, your family, your students and your school district. All around, it's going to be better for you!"
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