Jericho Fellows knew she wanted to become a teacher at an early age, and she has chased that dream ever since.
“When I was 18, I went to a community college and took one course in child development. I knew then that education would be the field I was going to pursue.”
Fellows is now on track to graduate in May 2021 from the Master of Education in Curriculum and Teaching (Non-Licensure) online degree program from Fitchburg State University.
She graduated from UMass Amherst in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education and is now employed as a full-time teacher in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The state requires licensed teachers to complete a master’s, but Fellows would have pursued a graduate degree even if that wasn’t the case. Her goal is to become the best teacher she can be.
“I definitely wanted to do it, just to further my education,” she said.
Making Time for the M.Ed.
The Massachusetts native had heard great things about Fitchburg State and its reputation. Its online program was the only way Fellows knew she could balance everything.
“I work full time, so day classes would not have been an option,” she said. “I also have a family, so night classes would have been pretty hard to manage.”
Fitchburg State’s online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Teaching made it easy for Fellows to do schoolwork on her own time.
“The format gives you flexibility to work on the weekends or whenever you are available. It does take a little bit of self-discipline in that regard. You have to make sure to create that time for school, but you can create it around your own family life and work life and where it fits.”
Fellows credits the professors at Fitchburg State with making her experience manageable, as they posted course assignments far enough in advance that she could prepare.
“Just looking at the syllabus or the weekly modules, I could plan ahead. I could say, ‘Okay, I have something due on Sunday, and it’s probably going to take a few hours. So, if I do a little bit this day and that day, and then finish it up on Saturday, I’ll be good to go’.”
She also enjoyed how the online M.Ed. program allowed her to take a heavier or lighter course load as needed.
“While you can finish the program in two years, it’s okay to stretch it out a bit longer if life gets busy,” she said. “Since my graduate program is all online, I don’t have to commute to complete my education which has helped save time.”
From Teacher to Student
Pursuing an M.Ed. degree has had many interchangeable benefits as a student and a teacher, Fellows said.
“I’m glad I could start my career and then go back to school. I know it’s not typically what everybody does, but the benefit of that for me has been being able to apply what I’m learning in school immediately to my classroom. Sometimes because I’m in the field, I’m able to pull from my experience, and it helps me through my classes.”
She enjoyed the course EDUC 7014: Reading and Writing in the Content Area.
“It awakened a new passion for me,” she said. “As a teacher, I found my niche in reading and writing, and this class helped me look at my future. I’m thinking about becoming a specialized reading teacher now.”
The classes at Fitchburg State taught her about more than just the subject area. She learned how important it will be to stay on top of the trends in her field in order to best serve her students.
“The more you learn, the more you realize how important it is to learn. I realized there are a lot more skills and strategies and resources out there. Teaching is one of those fields that you’re just always going to have to keep yourself educated and up with the times. These courses have shown me that.”
Finding True Value
The coursework she has completed has already made her a stronger teacher, and she could not have asked for more from Fitchburg State’s online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Teaching program.
“I always felt like I was still connected. I was able to talk with other teachers [in the program], and we were able to network through classwork, discussions and even some group projects.”
She reminds others considering the online M.Ed. program that it takes self-discipline to complete.
“It’s really manageable, as long as you’re always planning ahead and making sure you fit the time in that’s required. I had no problems.”
Fellows’ family is proud of her for returning to school. “The kids see that I’m striving to better myself,” she said.
When she’s not teaching or learning, Fellows can be found playing in a women’s street hockey league or hiking with friends and her 8-month-old puppy.
Upon completing her degree, Fellows plans to stay in the classroom and possibly become a specialized reading teacher or go into administration. She might also pursue another master’s degree in psychology.
“Education and psychology can go so hand-in-hand. And if I did think about getting into administration, having that extra degree would be helpful.”
A lifelong learner is what she said she will ultimately be. Fellows is well on her way.