Ingrid Fuelleman-Ramos graduate from Concordia University Irvine with an M.A.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and currently works as a teacher for a middle school in Long Beach, CA. We asked Ingrid to share with us her experience pursuing her master’s degree at Concordia University Irvine. Hear what she had to say!
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
My family’s motto has always been, “You are blessed to be a blessing.” Having grown up in a medical family I had always thought I would become a nurse like my mother. The summer between my junior and senior years at college while working as a camp counselor, I met a wise woman, our camp nurse, who helped to see that I should explore education as a career because of my passion for serving young people at camp every summer. I did and ended up switching my major to Early Childhood Development and then to Liberal Arts with the intent to complete my multiple subject teaching credential the following year, which I did. I have taught all the grades from kindergarten through fifth grade before being transferred to middle school.
Why did you choose Concordia University Irvine for your M.A.Ed. Curriculum and Instruction degree?
Lutheran education has a long history in the USA for preparing students to go out into the world with a vocation as opposed to simply a career, to contribute to making the world a better place for all people, which relates back to the motto of “you are blessed to be a blessing.” In comparing Concordia University Irvine’s M.A.Ed. to that of my local state university, which has an excellent education department, the tuition, time commitment, and evening cohort style program formatting were similar. Valuing vocation over career, it was a simple choice for me to choose Concordia University Irvine.
Why did you choose an online program? What were the benefits?
I did not realize that I had selected the asynchronous online track for this master’s and had a moment of panic when I was informed of this choice. I went with it having learned that many times what we initially view as a mistake or wrong choice ends up being a great benefit in life. The asynchronous online format allowed me to complete my work on my time schedule, which was good for me as a full-time teacher and single parent. I was apprehensive as to if I would be able to complete the program, but Concordia University Irvine did an awesome job of supporting me and allowing me to grow into the program. The design of the course work builds on itself and prepares you to be ready to complete your capstone project. The instructors are well versed in what they are teaching, readily available to support you as a student, and the textbooks are well chosen to align with what is being learned in each course.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Concordia University Irvine and how do you use them today?
What you are learning is relevant to that which is occurring in education and the world we live in. Ironically, some of what I have learned has given me a greater understanding of systematic racism, which is a huge social issue and problem that has great focus at this moment in time. In addition, the technology skills that are developed and honed in the online coursework has made me better prepared to deal with the immediate switch to long distance learning that took place in March, 2020, and has me much more prepared for the adjustments what will be required to reopen my classroom in Fall of 2020 due to social distancing in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
How has your curriculum and instruction degree impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?
On a lighter note, the motto “blessed to be a blessing” and the concept of vocation collide in considering how I can best meet the needs of my students. I believe that as teachers we have a sense of what is good and right for our students. Having completed this master’s, I now have a wealth of knowledge based in peer-reviewed research to be a stronger advocate for my students and their needs. This will enable me to be able to assist them in achieving inside and outside the classroom. I am much more prepared to speak to the changes needed to build positive school communities and to work to improve the intercity environment in which my students live. There is a lot of lip service given toward equity for all students in my district, but what plays out is equality, which does not support the needs of our schools located in the low socioeconomic neighborhoods. My growth as a student and as an educator allows me to be prepared to speak to the issues that require modification and change.
What was a challenge you faced during your curriculum and instruction program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
A challenge I encountered on my pathway to completing my M.A.Ed. was in determining what I should embrace as my capstone project. I struggled with this decision for weeks until another wise woman, Ann McKellar, one of my Concordia University Irvine instructors, pointed out a passion I had for growing a positive school community based in social-emotional learning and ethics, with a support piece of service learning. I don’t know how she knew I was struggling with this decision because I never spoke to her about it. Somehow, she sensed it and provided guidance just when I needed it. I was so grateful to have the focus and clarity required to pursue my capstone project.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the M.A.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction online degree program at Concordia University Irvine?
I encourage educators contemplating a master’s degree to drive into the adventure for several reasons. What Concordia University Irvine offers in their M.A.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction supports your growth as a current educator. Much of what I was learning was readily applicable to my classroom. I had many “aha” moments; for example, I was independently investigating empathy interviews as an aspect of my capstone project and happen to mention this to my assistant principal who had just been to a district administrative professional development session on empathy interviews. This demonstrated how cutting edge Concordia’s program is. In addition, teachers need to consider their future and set themselves up for a financially sound retirement. Getting your master’s degree moves you over to the bottom right-hand side of the pay scale and helps to ensure a comfortable future for yourself. As you can see, this professional and personal challenge was a benefit to me for so many reasons, and I’m glad I took it on. If you are contemplating doing the same, I encourage you to do so because you are blessed to be a blessing and have the ability to make our world a better place.