Dr. Lou Ann Kasias, a Catawba College professor of education and coordinator of the college's graduate program, believes teachers in the region need to know just what Catawba offers in its Master of Education in Elementary Education.
"We go out of our way to make this personal," said Kasias, a 20-year veteran in Catawba's sole graduate program. "We actually visit the graduate students' classrooms and give feedback to our students regarding their implementation of best practices. Moreover, despite this extra attention our program is affordable – only $160 per semester hour."
Kasias noted that it only takes 33 semester hours of coursework for a student to earn a Master of Education at Catawba, and if the student has National Board Certification, an additional three semester hours of credit are transferred in. "While teachers are earning a master's in Elementary Education, they could possibly earn an initial reading license without additional courses – that's two potential license changes within one program without additional coursework."
M. Ed. Graduates from Davidson County
Amanda Fulton, a Title I Reading Specialist at Southwood Elementary School in Davidson County, was one student who completed Catawba's graduate program in 2009, earning her Master of Education and her initial license in reading. "Catawba is a small college nestled in the town of Salisbury, about 20 minutes from Davidson County. This made it easy to wrap up things at work and get to class without rushing," Fulton explained. "The course costs were reasonable compared to other colleges and universities in the surrounding area.
"I found the small, intimate class sizes and individual attention from professors quite helpful and refreshing – especially when completing my research. I am certain I would not have had the same experience at a large university or through online classes."
Fulton expected that "going back to school would open doors for me in education" and because she completed the add-on reading licensure, she said, "I was able to achieve my dream of becoming a reading specialist."
Lydia Mack, like Fulton, teaches in Davidson County, serving as a Title I lead teacher at Fair Grove Elementary School there. Her reasons for earning her graduate degree at Catawba are also similar to Fulton's – the close proximity of Catawba to her home and school which made attending classes "extremely convenient," and the fact that the graduate program was "offered at such an affordable price."
Mack explained her experience at Catawba thusly: "I feel that the education I received during my time at Catawba was more than just theory. It was knowledge that I could apply in my everyday life as an educator. Since graduating from Catawba, I moved from being a kindergarten teacher to a reading specialist for first through fifth graders. Earning an add-on licensure in reading made this move possible.
"My experience at Catawba prepared me with the knowledge and confidence to work with a variety of students, parents, co-workers, and community members in a leadership position," Mack said.
Becky Byerly is a fourth/fifth grade AIG language arts and social studies teacher at Southwest Elementary School in Lexington. She explained that she decided to return to school to earn her graduate degree "because I felt it would increase my awareness of new trends in education as well as deepen my understanding of the 21st century learner and educator." She, like Mack and Fulton, chose Catawba at the recommendation of several teaching colleagues and due to the proximity of the college to her school.
Stanly County Teachers Working on Graduate Degrees
On the Catawba College campus, three teachers from Running Creek School in Stanly County are known by the faculty in the Goodman School of Education as "the three amigas." Kimlen Dennis, Kimberly Efird and Ann Miller are friends and coworkers who share an hour-long car ride each week as they drive to campus for their graduate coursework. All are National Board Certified and all hope to earn their Master of Education soon.
"I started the grad program at Catawba in the summer of 2009," Dennis, an AIG teacher remembered. "Ann [Miller] was thinking about going to UNCC, but she talked to me about Catawba and I shared what a good program it is. She started Catawba in the fall of 2009 and Kimberly Efird joined us in the summer of 2010."
Miller, a kindergarten teacher, explained her reasons for enrolling like this: "It wasn't until one of the ladies here at the school began the program at Catawba that I took interest. I had thought about a master's, but didn't know if I could handle all of the classes. I wanted to learn about the new ideas in education and enhance some of the ideas I've learned in workshops all of these years. I had begun master's classes before graduating as an undergraduate and had often thought of finishing."
Miller noted that the program structure and affordability sold her on pursuing her degree. "I liked the way the program was structured. I only had to focus on one class and be away from home one night a week. That worked into my schedule perfectly. Sure, it may take a little longer than other programs, but I could easily complete this program and still do what I needed to for my family. The cost is the other factor. I searched other programs and I couldn't afford to pay for them without taking out college loans."
AIG teacher Kimlen Dennis also researched other programs before selecting Catawba's. "After researching several graduate programs, I felt Catawba's grad program best met my needs. The program is ongoing and teachers, who are accepted, can join at anytime. In some colleges, you have to wait until they begin the next program or cycle."
Teachers from Rowan County with M.Ed. Degrees from Catawba
While convenient location, colleagues' recommendations, and reasonable costs all figured in the decision of some Rowan County teachers to pursue their master's degrees at Catawba, the desire to deepen their knowledge and better serve students motivated two recent graduates.
For Theresa Pierce, a curriculum coach at Overton Elementary School in Salisbury, earning her master's degree was an opportunity to finish what she had begun. "Thirty years ago, I started graduate school. It was my dream to complete my master's degree. The teachers at Overton encouraged me to try Catawba. I told them, 'I'm 50 years old and I will be 53 when I finish.' They said, 'You will be 53 with a degree.' Their encouragement and the support of my family were just what I needed to begin the process."
"Going through Catawba's graduate program was the single most rewarding experience of my 23-year career as an educator. Everything I learned was applicable to the classroom. I have a shelf in my classroom full of Catawba materials that I refer to often. As a curriculum coach, I am always using the skills I was taught at Catawba with teachers and students."
Amy Pruitt, a fifth grade teacher at Enochville Elementary School, chose the graduate program at Catawba after she had been in the classroom awhile and had a strong grip on the curriculum. "I wanted to deepen my knowledge base to better serve my students," she said. What she found as a graduate student was that "each course I took was pertinent to my classroom needs."
Today, she said she is "a more reflective teacher." "Graduate school helped me see how vital it is to examine each child as a learner and meet my students' needs daily. It reinforced teaching techniques that I had been using and gave me an arsenal of new, effective tools to push my students to be more successful. Attending Catawba's graduate classes also made me hungry for current, research-based activities and practices."
For information on Catawba's Master of Education Degree in Elementary Education, contact Dr. Lou Wilson Kasias, graduate program director, at (704) 637-4462 or by e-mail at email@example.com. Or, visit the college website for information on admissions requirements and application forms for the program at www.catawba.edu/graduate.