Jamie Miller, an ELA II and III teacher for a high school in Missouri.

Alumni Spotlight: Jamie Miller, M.Ed. in Language & Literacy Special Reading

Jamie Miller graduated from Park University with an M.Ed. in Language & Literacy Special Reading and currently works as an ELA II and III teacher for a high school in Missouri. Jamie is an accomplished educator with ample experience teaching ELA and working with special education students. We asked her to tell us about her time pursuing her master’s degree at Park University. 

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

After I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature and worked in the business and customer service fields, I knew that I had still not met my calling. Several generations of women in my family were/are educators, — my grandmother, mother, sister, and two aunts — and they inspired me go to back to school to earn my alternate route teaching certification. I have been teaching English Language Arts to secondary students for almost nine years. I enjoy working with students in many capacities, from watching lightbulbs go off to helping them develop post-secondary plans.

Why did you choose Park University for you M.Ed. Language and Literacy degree?

There are many factors to consider when deciding to commit to an advanced degree. For me, I had to consider my roles as a mother, wife, and educator. I needed a program that worked with my schedule and befit my interests. After researching several M.Ed. literacy programs, I found Park University’s to be competitive in many ways. The online format allowed me to be a teacher and mother by day and a student by night. I also appreciated that the M.Ed. literacy program is designed around the International Literacy Association’s Standards, which keeps the program up to date in the literacy field and helps the program rival that of other universities.

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

As a secondary English teacher, I have always taught reading to learn, not learning to read. My lack of knowledge on how to teach foundational reading skills inhibited my ability to help secondary students whose reading fluency is below grade level. After completing the literacy program at Park University, I gained the skills that I needed to be a more well-rounded English teacher. I am able to meet many of my students where they are in their reading abilities and help them develop the skills they need to become more proficient and independent readers. 

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

For the past three years I have worked as a special education teacher that works closely with students who have reading and writing disabilities. The skills that I gained through Park’s M.Ed. language and literacy program has helped me better understand how to provide high-quality instruction to my students.

My credentials as a reading specialist have also opened up opportunities for me to serve in leadership roles, such as serving on the Building Leadership Team at my school. In the near future, I would like to move into a reading teacher position, so that I can solely focus on helping students develop their reading skills. 

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

Since I am an alternate route educator, I lacked some of the undergraduate courses required by the state to earn my certification as a Special Reading Teacher; I met Park University’s requirements to earn my M.Ed. in Literacy and Language, however, I did not meet state requirements to earn a Special Reading endorsement on my teacher license. I reached out to my advisor and the director of the program, and they helped me get all of my ducks in a row to graduate with both. I was thankful that the team at Park University cared about me and wanted me to leave the program equipped to work in the literacy field.

What was the biggest takeaway from your literacy and language program?

One of my biggest takeaways from the literacy program was the hands-on experience that I gained throughout many of the courses. Administering a variety of literacy assessments to students of all ages really helped me look at literacy development through several educational stages. In addition, developing individualized intervention plans for students based off of the assessment results allowed me to gain valuable experiences that I can use in the field.

What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the M.Ed. Literacy and Language Special Reading program at Park University?           

The language and literacy special reading program at Park University provides a platform for you to obtain the skill set that you need to be successful in the field of literacy. To be competitive in the literacy field, my advice is to work hard and absorb as much of the information as you can. There is a lot of reading and writing involved with studying and researching the field of literacy. Choose to rise above the rest by working hard, completing assignments to the best of your ability, and finding time to prioritize your education. The instructors and program leaders at Park University will recognize your efforts.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

It is no secret that there is an ever-growing concern about the literacy rates of today’s student body. Literacy professionals call attention to the need for a pedagogical shift in educational practices to consider the diverse, modern student body. The role of a literacy professional is not only to provide quality literacy instruction to students but also to work with educators on how to develop their craft to include better literacy practices. Park University’s program will prepare you for both roles if you are willing to put in the work that it takes.