Teaching was only meant to be a stopover for Megan Breaux between earning her bachelor’s degrees in English and psychology, and plotting a course to her graduate degree.
However, she quickly realized she had a knack for leading in the classroom. And as a first-generation college student, she saw the impact she could have as a mentor and educator.
"I wanted to empower and inspire young people to continue their education,” she says. “As a teacher I was able to do that.”
Breaux has continued to do that in her role with GEAR UP, a federally-funded, grant-based program through the Lafayette Parish School System that improves access to higher education for high school students.
As partnership and data coordinator, Breaux has merged her passion for improving college access with research and data analysis skills learned through the online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, Instructional Specialist concentration, from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Breaux earned her alternative teaching certification and began teaching social studies, English, and social studies in Vermilion Parish in 2009 as she pursued a master’s in English. While she found the subject matter interesting personally, she couldn’t apply it to her professional life.
In 2011, she connected with the Acadiana Writing Project, a grant-based program that aims to improve writing education, improve professional development programs for teachers, and improve the professional standing of teachers.
“That was a paradigm shift for me; the Writing Project completely changed my outlook on teaching it. It made it to where it became something that I really loved doing,” she says. "The Writing Project gave me an opportunity to be more creative and to collaborate. As we were learning to be instructors of writing, we were also becoming stronger writers ourselves.”
Through the program, Breaux connected with Dr. Toby Daspit, who serves as co-director of the Writing Project as well as professor and interim department head for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
Dr. Daspit encouraged Breaux to rethink her graduate education and enroll in the online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction.
It was a sound pitch for Breaux who needed a program that was both professionally applicable and flexible, as she prepared for two major changes: relocating to Georgia and the birth of her daughter.
Although she needed the convenience of an online program, Breaux says she was worried about “just being a thumbnail.”
“I was worried about not making connections with my professors, but that didn't happen," she says. “I was able to make strong connections with my professors and with my cohort. In fact, I still talk to many of the people from cohort. The professors gave us opportunities to work together, and that head to some amazing connections.”
That was a stark contrast to her undergraduate experience.
As a first-generation college student, Breaux struggled with a sense of belonging. She focused on earning her degree rather than building the connections that the college experience could provide.
She says earning her master’s degree was her opportunity to approach college differently.
“It was a chance to grow as a learner,” she says. “I was able to make those connections, and I really got a chance to see my own potential.”
Breaux was able to continue her coursework even as she returned to Louisiana and full-time teaching in Vermilion Parish. She says the concepts she learned in the online graduate program were immediately applicable in her classroom.
"I was able to make everything fit into what I was doing on a daily basis,” she says. “Specifically, with Dr. Christine Briggs’ research classes. She taught us about action research and how to take what we were doing and use it to figure out what was working what wasn't.”
Making it Work
Breaux earned her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in 2017, finishing with a 4.0 GPA.
She excelled by finding a schedule that worked for her, focusing on her work during the week and reserving coursework for the weekends. She’s continued that routine as she pursues her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership.
“I have to have some sort of division between the work that I'm doing for grad school and the work that I'm doing for my job,” she says. “It takes a lot of willpower. You have to have a plan; you have to figure out what works for you. If I wouldn't have figured out that I needed to leave my schoolwork for the weekend, it may not have worked for me. I would have burnt out.”
Research in Action
Through the master’s program, Breaux earned her instructional coach certification and thought she might transition to an instructional coach or instructional leader role. Instead, Breaux had the opportunity to join GEAR UP.
“It merged all of my passions," she says. “I was able to support students more on a one-on-one basis, and I was able to support teachers through the programs that we provide."
She’s also been able to incorporate the research skills learned in her master’s program in her position.
"GEAR UP is naturally data heavy, because it's a federal grant. You have to collect and document everything,” Breaux says. “But it's not enough to just document the data, we have to use it to decide what sorts of services we provide and how we help individual students. It's my job to find those trends in the data to help our coaches think about what types of services may be beneficial to our students.”
Breaux hopes to continue to focus her career producing research and analyzing data to improve college access and support students.
Gain the skills to use research and data to refine, reform, and develop curricula and instruction for your classroom or school. Request information today about the online Master of Education in Instruction and Curriculum, Instructional Specialist concentration.