Jennifer graduated from Concordia University Chicago with an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with ESL Certification and currently works as a curriculum specialist for an elementary school in Illinois. Jennifer is an accomplished educator with more than a decade under her belt. We asked her to share with us her experience pursuing her master’s at Concordia University Chicago.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
From an early age, school was a place that was consistently safe and gave me a strong sense of belonging and value. I attribute this directly to my teachers who were pivotal in providing me with opportunities to grow as an individual while creating a strong sense of community in the classroom. Each child walks through the school building doors with varying sets of experiences, attitudes, and mindsets. Thanks to the educators I had as a young person, I was able to escape the harsh realities of my home life and build my capacity as a lifelong learner. It is because of those educators that believed in me and inspired me that I went on to create a safe, nurturing environment for young people.
Why did you choose Concordia University Chicago for your M.A. degree in curriculum and instruction with ESL certification?
Concordia offers a convenient cohort program that made attending school, working, and being a single parent accessible and attainable. The program met on the same weekday for two years and was crucial to maintaining a predictable and realistic schedule while also building relationships with colleagues that I met in the program. Specifically, I chose to study curriculum and instruction to have the credentials and experience to assess and critique materials used within my school and the knowledge and tools for best practices to create and align units of study. Obtaining the ESL certification is crucial to service the population in our great city of Chicago and even more specifically in the Rogers Park neighborhood where I have had 15+ different languages represented in a single classroom.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Concordia University Chicago, and how do you use them today?
Through the program at Concordia University Chicago, I was able to combine my enthusiasm for instructional planning with research-based strategies, tools, and resources to build quality units of study for my third grade students in my own classroom; most of whom are English language learners. Additionally, I was able to lead other educators within my school and district to build quality assessments and instruction through collaboration and best practice. These skills continue to prove as a strength as I navigate the demands and mandates of the education system and continue to advocate for what is best for my students.
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?
The master’s degree obtained from Concordia University Chicago has directly impacted my career path and given me a strong foundation of instructional leadership that will continue to guide me as an educator. The positive impact on my teaching was immediately evident in the classroom. I began to analyze instructional materials with a new lens, one that was more equitable and evaluative.
Currently, I have the privilege of supporting teachers to improve their practice, provide input on instructional materials, and facilitate professional developments within my district. It is my goal to support teachers as an administrator in the future, but as for now, I am thoroughly enjoying building my capacity in my current role.
What was a challenge you faced during your curriculum and instruction program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
The challenges faced in the program were definite learning opportunities that I was able to successfully navigate with the help of the professional community of learners that I met and maintained great relationships with during my time at Concordia. While the instructors were always available and helpful, it was equally beneficial to collaborate and learn from the other educators in the program, and I continue to reach out for support to this day.
What was the biggest takeaway from your curriculum and instruction program?
The biggest takeaway from the curriculum and instruction program was that continued learning for educators is essential to ensuring students are receiving a quality education. This applies to those doing the research, writing the textbooks, delivering the instruction; it begins with the classroom teacher. We live in a time when teachers have sometimes been undervalued and dismissed as professionals. In continuing our fight for the future of education policy, it is imperative that we are equipped with the knowledge and resources to defend our profession.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the M.A. curriculum and instruction with ESL certification program at Concordia University Chicago?
If you are questioning whether or not this program is for you — it is! What I loved most is that the courses apply across all content areas of teaching and instruction and all grade levels. This is especially a great program if you are considering pursuing a position in educational leadership because every school, department, and grade level could benefit from having an instructional leader. The tools and knowledge gained from this program will guide you through the ebbs and flows of educational trends that will inevitably continue.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
When compared to other programs in Chicago that offered the same degree and certificate, Concordia University Chicago was well worth the cost and I highly recommend this program. I was able to receive loans for partial tuition and there are payment options that make this affordable and possible for anyone.