Whitli graduated from Georgetown College with an M.A.Ed. in Literacy Specialist with Teacher Leader Endorsement and currently works as a fourth-grade ELA and fifth-grade writing teacher for an elementary school in Kentucky. Whitli boasts multiple accomplishments and responsibilities across her professional career, so we asked her to tell us about another one: her pursuit of her master’s degree at Georgetown College.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
My childhood playroom was a classroom, complete with a student desk and chalkboard. I would happily spend hours teaching my dolls and creating the most perfect lessons. Even as a child I always found joy in giving my knowledge to others, and throughout the course of my life, that joy has blossomed into an undying love for education. It seemed as though everything in my life kept guiding me towards the same destination: the classroom. My first taste of being an educator was my senior year of high school, volunteering in a Kindergarten class. Within the first fifteen minutes, I knew I was home. I was exactly where I needed to be. That small experience was in 2009, and I have been in the classroom in some capacity ever since!
Why did you choose Georgetown College for you M.A.Ed. degree in Literacy Specialist with Teacher Leader Endorsement?
When I first contacted Georgetown College for more information, I had already contacted several other colleges. I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed and apprehensive of making the wrong decision. In a few short days, I was contacted individually and welcomed warmly by a staff member. I was made to feel cared for, important, and valuable. The contact I had made kept in touch with me throughout the application process and stood beside me every step of the way. I truly felt as though I was part of the Georgetown College family before I had even received my acceptance letter. When the letter did arrive, I was contacted by the same person and we celebrated my big day. I knew right then that I had found somewhere special. I wasn’t just a number. I was family.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Georgetown College, and how do you use them today?
While I studied at Georgetown College, I feel that I sharpened my skills the most at educational research. Too often we, as educators, tend to go by what others are saying or doing, instead of searching for our own answers. I was able to dive further into research-based programs versus evidence-based programs, when it comes to providing a quality education to my students. This skill has made me a better educator and a more effective researcher when it comes to servicing the students that walk through my door.
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?
Over the past couple of years, I have taken on the role as the fourth/fifth grade writing teacher. I teach fourth-grade reading/writing before lunch each day and fifth-grade writing after lunch. With this new schedule, I have been taking full advantage of the Literacy Specialist endorsement that I received from Georgetown College. In my school, we are revamping our writing plan and organizing more effective ways to teach both reading and writing, and I have been able to have an active part in this process. I feel that the experience I gained at Georgetown College more than prepared me for this overhaul at my school and enabled me to truly aid in building great processes for our students!
What was a challenge you faced during your literacy specialist program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
During my final semesters at Georgetown College, our school was labeled Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI). This meant that our test scores and student growth were not where they needed to be and that the KY Department of Education would be intervening to aid in a turnaround plan for us. I was devastated. I was terrified. I had more things on my plate than I wanted, and my master’s classes on top of it all seemed impossible. Surprisingly enough, I would have never imagined how much my education on data tracking, data analysis, and educational research would enhance my abilities to handle the obstacles that being CSI would bring.
What was the biggest takeaway from your Literacy Specialist program?
My biggest takeaway from my master’s program was to never get comfortable as a Literacy Specialist. It was made very clear that I should be a forever learner, who takes pride in finding the most effective ways to reach all learners no matter the struggle to do so. So far in my career, I have found this to be extremely true. As an educator, you will never meet the same kid twice, and in honor of that, I must always be ready to take a new route or try a new approach. It truly makes the difference between another student falling through the cracks or becoming a success story.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the M.A.Ed. Literacy Specialist with Teacher Leader Endorsement program at Georgetown College?
I will never forget my very first day teaching. I greeted each of my students in the doorway of my classroom that was quickly filling up. As I entered and the door closed, I turned to meet their smiling faces. The feeling that rushed over me was a feeling I will never forget. They were looking at me. They were awaiting directions and guidance from me, their fearless leader. In that moment, as daunting as it was, I felt excited. I was more than confident that this was where I needed to be. As I move towards a more specialized point in my career, I want that same feeling. I want to always feel like the fearless leader they see me as and never meet their gaze with hesitation. In my opinion, Georgetown College fully prepared me to have that confidence in myself and my abilities.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
One of my favorite things I have said about Georgetown College is that my professors prayed for me. I’ve said this many times, and it is more than true. My friends would ask how I knew that, and I would simply reply, “I know because they tell me.” Emails from professors seem a bit sweeter when a well wish is at the end that blatantly says that they are praying for you along your journey. This happened several times for me, and being a teacher in the public school system, where things like that are more taboo, this was incredibly special to me. The prayers definitely made the long nights, intensive projects, and assessments a bit easier by providing me with a never-ending sense of hope.