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Perspective to Adapt: M.Ed. Grad Leans on Cohort through COVID

UL Online -- Thu, 12/03/2020 - 10:22am

The past several months have been chaotic, especially as parents and teachers try to keep up with changing school, work, and childcare schedules. 

Lauren Menard, UL Lafayette online master of education graduate, with her husband and two daughters.

Lauren Menard is both a teacher and mom to two young daughters. While navigating COVID-19 with her family and students, she’s also been pursuing her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, Instructional Specialist concentration

Menard says although working full-time and managing coursework was a challenge, earning her degree online at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette gave her new tools for her classroom and extra support that have helped her adapt.

“It was tough, but it was best to be able to apply my experience to what we learned in class and then take that back to my classroom,” she says. “I think you become more confident as a teacher when you can talk about what you learned and have other professionals who aren't necessarily at your school give you feedback. It’s less intimidating and just validates what you're doing.”

Continuing a Teaching Legacy

Menard always wanted to be a teacher — it’s in her blood.

“My grandparents taught, too, so I feel like that rubbed off on me,” she says. “Since I was little, I've always wanted to teach. I would dress up as a teacher for career day and everything.”

Menard was encouraged to consider a more specialized role during her first year of teaching. Pursuing that role, however, would require enrolling in a graduate program. Menard decided the best way to meet that requirement while working full-time and caring for her then-one-year-old daughter would be to earn her degree online. 

She chose UL Lafayette’s online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction, Instructional Specialist concentration.

Lauren Menard, Abbeville High teacher and UL Lafayette graduate, with her two daughters.In addition to the applicable classroom tools, Menard says she gained a foundation for future opportunities outside the classroom without having to take time away from her family during the week.  

"You don't have a specific time to go and do your work, so you have to be disciplined in finding time to do it,” she says. “It ended up being nicer because when you get off work, you don’t want to go to school. So, it was kind of just picking a day during the week to look at and then usually on the weekend I would finish up my work. It was more flexible, but you have to be disciplined and get a schedule going that works best for you.”

Turning Peers into Teammates

The Instructional Specialist concentration prepares students for roles as content coaches, lead teachers, curriculum coordinators, department chairs, peer evaluators, and induction specialists. Students have the opportunity to apply their coursework by working with peers at their school. 

Menard says the experience helped enrich her relationships with the teachers around her.

“It was interesting seeing teachers willing to — on top of what they're already doing — work with me to do problems for any projects and assignments for my class," she says. “I think it just strengthens your relationship with them from there.”

The opportunity to learn from other teachers in the online graduate program has also been helpful as Menard has navigated transitioning her high school algebra students from their Abbeville campus to virtual classrooms, to hybrid, and then back to virtual.

"We’ve done classroom technology presentations, so watching others and thinking about how I could adapt it to my classroom, that has all been applicable,” Menard says. “We also discuss and ask, like, ‘how are you running your online classroom?’ Every school is different but just hearing ideas and seeing what others are doing and what works and what you can add to your class is definitely helpful.”

As Menard prepares to stand among the Fall 2020 UL Lafayette graduates, she’s planning to continue applying the strategies learned from her cohort and professors in her classroom before taking any steps to transition to other roles.

"I really do enjoy being in the classroom, and I’m not ready to move out of it yet,” says Menard, “but I have the tools now if I want to become a district coach or move up.”

Request information today about UL Lafayette’s online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction, Instructional Specialist concentration, offered 100% online.