Little did Hannah Carlson know that grading papers for her teachers as a high school student was a foreshadowing of her career as an educator.
“I loved doing it,” she said. “Ironically, grading papers is now my least favorite part of being a teacher. No wonder they had me do it back then.”
Carlson enrolled in the online Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader PreK-12 program at Emporia State University. She is on track to graduate in May 2022.
“I went back to school because I wanted to make more money as an educator,” she said, “but I also want the next step in my career as an instructional coach supporting teachers.”
An eighth-grade math instructor at Shawnee Heights Middle School in Tecumseh, Kansas, Carlson avails of a TEACH Grant to pay for most of the tuition.
“I like the self-paced nature of the degree and the cost of the program,” she said. “It checked all of the boxes for me.
“I also have five co-workers/colleagues who are doing master’s degree programs at Emporia State with me. We talk about assignments and help each other. One is doing the same program I am doing. It works out well.”
The online format is conducive to Carlson’s busy schedule. She and her husband, Alex, a COVID ICU nurse, have two children — Aria (5) and Marshall (1).
“I can do my work during my plan time at school,” she said. “Because I have small children, it’s nice to be able to get it done at school. I could still do it at home if I wanted to. The flexibility of the program is great.”
Carlson is from Topeka, Kansas, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in K-6 elementary education from Washburn University in 2014. She is in her eighth year in the Shawnee Heights School District, having taught five years in elementary prior to her current middle-school stint.
“I started the master’s degree program at Emporia State in March 2020, right as the pandemic hit,” said Carlson, who holds licensure for middle-school math. “Earning a degree online worked out well with the lockdown because I had extra time on my hands.”
Of all the courses she has taken so far, those taught by Dr. Linda Aldridge and Dr. Kirsten Limpert have been especially beneficial for Carlson.
“Dr. Aldridge is my favorite professor,” she said. “I enjoy the way that she provides feedback. Dr. Limpert is also great at providing feedback. She went above and beyond with examples of what I could do in my classroom.”
Carlson believes that the online MS C&I – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader PreK-12 program is preparing her well to transition to the next phase of her career when the opportunity arises.
“I already knew some of the information that I have learned so far, but some of it is new to me,” she said. “I am enjoying the chance to broaden my horizons.”
Even if her co-workers and colleagues weren’t earning degrees along with her, Carlson has plenty of company as a college student in her immediate family.
“I am the oldest of five siblings,” she said. “Four of us are graduating [from various degree programs] in May. My sister, Sarah Keck, is majoring in fishery and wildlife at Emporia State.
“We are going to have a big party. We make a big deal out of graduating from anything.”
Carlson said that the key to success as a student in the online master’s degree program is avoiding procrastination.
“Also, make sure that you ask the professors for help because they are there and will help you if you don’t procrastinate,” she said. “Stick with it. They get back to me quickly when I have a question, which has impressed me.”
Once she graduates from Emporia State, Carlson plans to focus on reaching her career goal, which would put an end to grading papers.
“This degree will help create opportunities for me as I work toward becoming an instructional coach,” she said. “I have received good value out of the master’s degree program. I am glad that I decided to go back to school at Emporia State. It’s been a great experience.”
Learn more about Emporia State’s MS in C&I – Instructional Coach/Teacher Leader PreK-12 online program.