While many of our graduate students serve as Graduate Teaching Assistants and complete the M.A. degree full-time, others continue to pursue their current jobs while also taking graduate courses. Rachael Cox (M.A. ’21) is one of several high school teachers who pursue the M.A. in English in order to enrich their personal and professional lives. To learn more about these kinds of opportunities, visit our web page on “Graduate Coursework for Teachers and Professionals.”
I was incredibly nervous to take on working towards a Master’s degree while also working full time as a classroom teacher, but I’m so glad that I did.
In my day-to-day teaching, becoming a student again has renewed my empathy for my students, grounding my relationships with them. I am able to share my own homework stress or extend them a little extra grace, being a student myself.
I have also been able to take ideas from my classes and implement them in my classroom. After taking a class featuring diverse texts for young adults, I partnered with my Language Arts colleagues to incorporate a unit focused on Native American writers into our curriculum. During a class on children’s illustrated literature, I created a lesson using picture books to teach my own students about finding the theme of a story.
I also found, not surprisingly, that an advanced degree in my content area helped me engage with Language Arts on a more professional level. I had the opportunity to present picture book theory and graphic novel information to the middle school Language Arts teachers in USD 383 at during a Language Arts collaboration day. It was exciting to be able to talk about these topics that the students know a lot about that lots of teachers are just beginning to explore.
While attending other professional development events and educational conferences, I was surprised how many of the concepts being introduced I had read about or explored in my K-State classes. When I saw Ebony Elizabeth Thomas speak on her book The Dark Fantastic, and she referenced the book Racial Innocence, I knew what she was talking about. Or when Laurie Halse Anderson explained she had never known the power of the page turn in an illustrated text until adapting her novel Speak, I had learned about the page turn three weeks before. I realized my readings and exploration in my content field had given me a breadth and depth relevant to my own teaching that I had not anticipated.
These positive experiences would not have been possible without the help and support of the English Department here at K-State. Every time I think there’s a conflict too big to overcome, Dr. Anne Longmuir, as the Director of Graduate Studies, is there to tell me it will work out. The English Department has been wonderful helping work out my degree plan on a night schedule. Even though I am not on campus very often, everyone has been so welcoming and kind. Individual professors are very accommodating and classmates are always checking in about how teaching life is going. Even though teaching full time and working on a Master’s is challenging, I have been very supported.
As I wrap up my time at K-State, I will be exploring graphic novel adaptions of Young Adult literature, with a focus on The Giver. And while I’ve enjoyed learning more about the art of adaptation and looking through so many graphic novel titles, it has been even more satisfying to put those titles on the shelves in my classroom.
— Rachael Cox (M.A. ’21)