When Jamie Clark entered her seventh year as an educator, a representative from Northwest Missouri State University came to her school to talk about graduate degrees.
“She was so informative,” Clark said. “She laid it all out there and made it seem like working moms and people with busy lives could do this program. Then, she told me about the TEACH Grant.”
By the time Clark showed up for school the next day, she had committed to enrolling in the online Master of Science in Education in Reading program at Northwest. She completed the program in February 2021.
When Clark, a first-grade teacher at Knob Noster Elementary School, near Kansas City, Missouri, started the program, her daughter, Kacie, was 6 months old. She and her family reside in Warrensburg.
“The online format was great and 100% manageable,” she said. “It was my first time doing online courses. I picked it up. It was easy to navigate.
“It was always on my mind to go back to school since my undergrad. I also knew that around the 10-year mark, most schools freeze your pay if you don’t have your master’s degree.”
Clark grew up in Higginsville, Missouri, and realized from an early age which career path she would walk. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Central Missouri in 2011.
“I wanted to be a teacher forever,” she said. “I taught fourth grade for a while. One of my biggest frustrations was that so many kids came to me who didn’t know how to read. I wondered where the gap was happening.
“One reason I went to first grade was I wanted to dig deeper into how kids learn how to read, so when the representative from Northwest came and talked about the reading program, I was sold.”
While Clark benefited from the entirety of the online MSEd. in Reading curriculum, EDUC 62604: A Survey of Literacy Professionals and Practices was her favorite course.
“I got to talk to different teachers in different fields of literacy and see what they loved about their jobs,” she said. “I have always considered doing the Title I reading position, so it gave me an excuse to hang with one of them and get a feel for what her day is like.
“I was able to do good research through the master’s degree program, which was helpful. I took a lot of what I learned in the program back to my classroom daily.”
Clark enjoyed her experience as a first-time online student — especially working with fellow educators in the Northwest faculty.
“I got good value out of the program,” she said. “I was really happy with all of the professors. They were all helpful and answered my questions quickly. They were very supportive, which I really appreciated.”
Earning a degree online helped Clark balance her career and motherhood as she worked toward enhancing her knowledge base and skill set.
Even though her undergraduate school is a rival of Northwest, her family supported her even if they did tease her, all in good fun.
“It was a big thing when I chose Northwest for my master’s degree, but everybody was excited and supportive. My sister, Laura Ward, is a high school math teacher. She also got her master’s through Northwest,” said Clark.
Now that she has a graduate-level degree on her resume, she plans to gain more classroom experience while focusing on achieving her ultimate career goal of being a Title I reading teacher.
“I love the classroom so much,” she said. “The master’s degree is going to help me be a better teacher and maybe become a reading teacher someday. It will open up opportunities for me.”
Clark is glad that she got the encouragement she needed to return to higher education and took advantage of the opportunity.
“I would tell anybody considering this program to definitely go for it,” she said. “I have told a lot of my friends at school to consider it. I have encouraged them and told them it’s manageable. You sign up and keep going.
“With some master’s degree programs, you can pick and choose courses. I liked that it was straight through with the 10 courses at Northwest. I highly recommend it.”
Learn more about Northwest’s online MSEd. in Reading program.