Janet Blackmon, a second-grade dual language teacher at an elementary school in Illinois.

Alumni Spotlight: Janet Blackmon, M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction with ESL/Bilingual Endorsement

Janet Blackmon graduated from Concordia University Chicago with an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with ESL/Bilingual Endorsement and currently works as a second-grade dual language teacher at an elementary school in Illinois. Janet is an accomplished educator with two decades of experience, so we asked her to share her experience at Concordia University Chicago.

Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?

As a child, my parents were always very big on education. I had three siblings, and growing up, they always talked to us about the importance of education and doing well in school. They also emphasized the benefits of going to college and having a career. During my school years, I had teachers who taught me more than academics. They taught me things like having good character and not giving up, and they made a positive impact on me. The passion for education that my parents instilled in me and my desire to do make a difference in someone’s life, like some of my teachers had done, led me to decide that teaching was the right career choice for me. 

Why did you choose Concordia University Chicago for your M.A. degree in curriculum and instruction with ESL/Bilingual endorsement?

I chose Concordia University Chicago for several reasons. I liked that they offered programs that fit my interests and needs and that these programs were accredited. I also found it very convenient that all the classes required for my master’s degree program were available online. While completing my program, it was not necessary for me to go to the campus very many times. However, when I did have to go there, I found that the campus was within a reasonable distance from my home and in a convenient location. I had also heard about good experiences that individuals had in their programs at Concordia, so I felt confident that I would have a good experience as well.

What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Concordia University Chicago, and how do you use the today?

After completing my M.A. degree in Curriculum and Instruction with ESL/bilingual Endorsement program, I became much more knowledgeable in the area of teaching ESL/bilingual students and an overall better teacher. I learned a great deal of in-depth information about teaching using best practices. Most importantly, I gained a better understanding of how bilingual and ESL students learn. As a dual language teacher, these skills have helped me tremendously. I always have the concepts, skills, and strategies that I learned in my program in mind when teaching my students. This program helped me better understand my students, how they learn, and how to help them to be successful.

How has your master’s degree impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?

My master’s degree has helped me to become more of an expert in my field. I feel more confident in knowing what my students need and how to meet their needs. I also believe that it has helped me to stand out as a leader in education. In the future, I would like to have a position where I could possibly teach teachers in the school setting or even in a college setting. My degree has helped me to go in this direction because I have a much deeper understanding of important areas of curriculum and instruction such as planning, differentiation, and teaching ESL/bilingual students.

What was a challenge you faced during your curriculum and instruction program, and who or what helped you overcome it?

One of the biggest challenges that I faced during my program was balancing my personal life, work, and school. It was a lot, and I often found myself extremely overwhelmed. However, taking advantage of the flexibility that my program offered really helped me to deal with this. I worked on my schoolwork during times that were most convenient for me, and that worked best around my personal life and work schedule. My classmates also played a large part in helping me to overcome this challenge. While communicating on class assignments, we often shared our feelings with one another and found that we were all struggling with this same issue. This led to us becoming supportive of each other and often encouraging one another.

What was the biggest takeaway from you curriculum and instruction program?

The biggest takeaway from my program was that as teachers, we never stop learning. When I started my program, I had been teaching kindergarten for over five years. I felt like I was an experienced kindergarten teacher and I knew what I was doing. However, I learned that quite the opposite was true. There was a lot that I did not know, even as an experienced teacher. Not only did my program help me to see that there was a lot that I did not know, but it also helped me to understand some of the things that I was missing.

What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the M.A. curriculum and instruction with ESL/Bilingual endorsement program at Concordia University Chicago?

This program requires lots of dedication and hard work. However, it is well worth it. If you want to grow as a teacher and offer your students, especially ESL/bilingual students, the best learning opportunities possible, then this is a great program for you. This program will help you to gain a deeper understanding of curriculum and instruction, especially as it relates to ESL/bilingual education. It will teach you to see learning through the eyes of these students, and to have a clearer understanding of how to meet their needs. Furthermore, if you are looking for a program that is offered completely online, but still yields the same results as that which is offered in a classroom setting, then this program is a good choice.