Lisa Parker scratched a 25-year itch by graduating with a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Curriculum and Instruction – Science Education from the online program at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) in May 2019.
"I was teaching full time, and I found out I was going to have my fourth child," Parker said. "Something had to give — and it was my master's program. I raised my family, kept on teaching and, after everybody went to college, thought that this was a goal I hadn't achieved. I started looking for programs that would fit my schedule. This was the perfect program."
Parker started teaching at Kaufman Independent School District, near Dallas, the year after she left her first master's program and has been there ever since. At the same time she graduated from UTA, she completed her 24th school year at KISD.
"A few years ago, I had a perfect group of teachers that I was working with — a perfect pod, we called ourselves," she said. "We got a new principal, and she had to move everybody around. A curriculum job that required a master's degree came open. One of our teachers had a master's degree and got the job.
"I had more experience teaching, but I didn't have a master's degree. I am very proud for her, but it broke up our happy little group. I thought, 'I don't want that to happen again. But if it does, I want it to be me who gets the job.' That was one of the reasons why I started back."
Parker grew up in the small East Texas town of Eustace. She realized at a young age that she wanted to become a teacher.
"Most of the people you looked up to and saw there were teachers," she said. "You wanted to be a teacher or a coach. We had to go to another town to see the doctor, so teachers were important people in the town."
After high school, Parker moved to Austin and graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and teaching from the University of Texas in 1986. Her desire to stay in the UT system was a big reason why she chose UTA online.
"I am a diehard Longhorn so that helped," she said. "I looked at another program, but UTA was more affordable. Plus, I didn't have to take my GRE. I was grandfathered in. The other program required me to go take it."
Even though Parker has a wealth of teaching experience under her belt, she learned a lot in the online graduate degree program. She incorporated what she was learning into her classrooms while teaching both fifth- and sixth-grade science.
"There was something about all of the courses that I really liked," she said. "I used my students for my references, and they were excited to help as I went through the program. I brought a lot of what I learned and put it into the curriculum. Because the schoolwork coincided and I was teaching, it was very rewarding. I got a lot of good value out of the program."
The flexibility of the online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction – Science Education program allowed Parker to fit school in with her schedule whenever it was most convenient.
"It was great," she said. "I would teach all day. Then, in the evenings, I looked at my school stuff. I would plan it out so I knew what I would have to do for the week."
The Next Stage
Parker celebrated her big achievement by walking in the commencement ceremony at UTA with her husband, Jon, and children — Ryan, Hayle, Travis and Hannah — cheering her on while her students watched online.
"My children were very excited and happy," she said. "I think me being an older teacher at the end of my career inspired a lot of people to never quit learning. We can always learn something and grow, which goes with our T-TESS (Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System). You're constantly pushing to be better."
Although Parker enrolled at UTA with more than 30 years of experience, she believes the program is a great option for teachers at any stage of their careers.
"They need to check out this program," she said. "It is amazing. When I started the first time, I had to drive so far. It took so much time away from my family. It was hard. With this program, you can do it right after work, do your stuff, go home and then still have time for family and friends and your life."
Now that Parker has achieved her goal of earning a master's degree, she is eager to see where it leads her for the remainder of her career.
"My students were really adamant about asking, 'Are you going to be here next year?'" I said, 'Yes, I'll be here next year. I've signed my contract,'" she said. "But so many doors opened that I don't know where it may lead me. After I retire, I could teach in college. It's a dream come true that I finally met my goal."
Sounds like a new itch.Learn more about the UTA M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction – Science Education online program.
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