Ashlee Johnson, a sixth-grade language arts teacher for a middle school in Minnesota.

Alumni Spotlight: Ashlee Johnson, Reading Endorsement

Ashlee graduated from Concordia University St. Paul with a reading endorsement and currently works as a sixth-grade language arts teacher for a middle school in Minnesota. Ashlee is already an accomplished classroom teacher, has served on numerous school committees, and is currently working on her doctorate. We asked her to tell us about herself and her time at Concordia University St. Paul. 

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

Working in education has never been a question for me. I’ve felt a need to help others from a very young age. As I entered university and considered what I wanted to do professionally, it became apparent that teaching was an area of great passion for me. Throughout my education program and obtaining my first teaching position, I found that I cared deeply for the betterment of the education system. I believe that all children can learn. While that learning may look different and happen at different rates, all children can make progress. Working in education has brought me so much joy because of the extensive learning opportunities that exist within this field. Education is continuously evolving, and it needs strong educators that believe in best practice and professional advancement through research to make it the best possible system to support young people.

Why did you choose Concordia University St. Paul for your reading endorsement?

Concordia University St. Paul offered a program that fit well with my schedule and my needs. I was looking for a program that would offer flexibility with my time. I wanted to ensure a class structure that would fit with my schedule, but I also wanted face-to-face interactions with instructors and other students. I appreciate taking classes in a blended model, and Concordia offered that. The weekly classes and cohort model met my need for face-to-face interaction and shared learning experiences. The online class meeting format provided me the ability to be “in class” from anywhere as well. Being that I do not live near St. Paul, the distance learning provided flexibility for me to attend, regardless of where I was.

What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Concordia University St. Paul, and how do you use them today?

Through the program at Concordia University St. Paul, I was able to build upon my writing and research skills. After taking time away from my own educational progress to focus solely on teaching, I needed to refresh my skills being a student. The program through Concordia University St. Paul helped me to harness those skills once again and helped me to develop technical writing for my future writing and educational goals. While class content was focused on various topics to support reading instruction, there was built-in support for academic writing as well.

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

The reading endorsement program has helped me to become a better reading teacher. Prior to entering the program, I felt inadequate in determining specific reading needs of my students. The reading endorsement program covered a wide range of topics surrounding reading instruction, from looking at various philosophies of teaching reading to strategies for supporting students learning needs to supporting colleagues for school wide reading improvement. The reading endorsement program enabled me to feel more confident not only in my reading instruction, but in my understanding of my students’ needs and the improvement of my overall reading instruction.

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

My biggest challenge during the reading endorsement program was time management. I had to ensure that I was providing myself an adequate amount of time for completing the required weekly reading early enough to complete the posts on Blackboard. Along with the weekly posts there were also assignments throughout the class. To complete these on time, I needed to plan ahead and block off enough time in my schedule for longer writing periods. Managing my time was a challenge at first, but it became more manageable once it became a part of my weekly schedule and became a habit. It helped me to block schedule my week and schedule time in my calendar to devote to my work and stick by that schedule.

What was the biggest takeaway from your reading endorsement program?

I feel more prepared to teach reading after the reading endorsement program than I did before. My biggest takeaway from the program was the amount of reading instruction knowledge that aligned with my current role. I believe there are pieces of my learning that I use on a daily basis in my current position. The required reading was extremely insightful and supportive of my teaching development. Through the readings I learned of knowledgeable educational leaders who have researched and developed reading philosophies that I have adopted into my own classroom and continued to push my thinking in terms of supporting students.

What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the reading endorsement program at Concordia University St. Paul?

To be successful in this program, I would advise knowing ahead of time that one is able to commit a considerable amount of time to reading the required materials and completing the assignments. Whenever one enters a professional learning opportunity, they will get what they put in. Along with being able to commit, I advise that individuals view the opportunity as a means to bettering one’s reading instruction. While the university provides ample opportunities for learning and development, it does come down to the individual to make the program worth it for them.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I highly recommend the Concordia University St. Paul reading endorsement program, especially for secondary language arts teachers and elementary teachers who teach reading. Even though it takes time and commitment, it is well worth it.