How My Master’s Degree in Teaching Has Helped My Career
Manager of School and Urban Education Programs
Irvine Nature Center
Owings Mills, MD
Do teachers really need a graduate degree? The question of whether to pursue a master’s degree is an important one for educators. According to the National Education Association, more than half of all teachers hold master’s degrees. In fact, some states require teachers to continue on to a master’s degree after getting certification.
But don’t be daunted! Teaching with a master’s degree can open up a new world of advantages and rewards for educators: more pedagogical skills, higher salary potential, and better student learning outcomes. For Sara Mills, a preschool teacher and Manager of School and Urban Education Programs at Irvine Nature Center in Maryland, a master’s degree in teaching has helped her both in the classroom-working with students and preparing lessons-and out of the classroom, developing curricular programs that meet district requirements.
Q: What is your day-to-day job like?
A: Currently I’m focusing on creating a new environmental education program for Baltimore City Public Schools. During a typical week I balance my time between teaching and program development. Program development may include meeting with school district leaders and partners and creating lessons, and teaching involves hands-on, cross-curricular lessons that are environmental science-based.
Q: Where did you receive your master’s degree in teaching?
A: I received my MAT at Chatham University. Much of the program that I completed focused on educational theory and pedagogy, classroom management, lesson development and assessment and inclusion.
Q: How did your master’s program prepare you for your current career?
A: Each week I teach students from all across the city and county. For someone in my position, classroom management can often be difficult because my visit is a change from their routine. Learning about classroom management teacher tricks has really helped me deliver successful programs. I also keep in mind the many different learning styles of students as I design my programs. Keeping these many learning styles in mind is probably not something that I would have considered had I not completed my master’s program.
Q: How long have you been teaching, and what made you decide on a teaching career?
A: I have been teaching for six years. During my undergraduate studies I took an education class simply to fill credits and I fell in love with the art and science of teaching. I enjoy sharing my love for learning and the creativity that teaching allows.
Q: What is the biggest advantage of teaching with a master’s degree?
A: When one attends a master’s program they have a chance to focus on a particular field in more depth than they can in an undergrad program. In my case, an MAT has given me the ability to not only work with students, but to also work and collaborate with the teachers that I visit as well.
Q: What characteristics are essential for a career in teaching?
A: Patience, creativity, a zest for problem solving-and a sense of humor.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? What is the most challenging part?
A: The most challenging part is that there are only so many hours in a day. As a teacher, we all wish we had more time! Seeing a student succeed or overcome their own personal challenges, whether that challenge is academic or social, is phenomenally rewarding. When you see a student gain confidence and self-satisfaction it’s an amazing feeling.
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If you want to further develop your skills in working with students in the classroom, a master’s degree in teaching is a wonderful way to get started.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook; “Master of Arts in Teaching vs. Master’s in Education.” Teach.com; “Myths and Facts about Educator Pay,” National Education Association; Walker, Tim. “Professional Learning Deserves Professional Pay,” NEA Today.