Audrey Gale and the online Master of Science in Education – Teacher Education – Curriculum and Instruction – Digital Teaching and Learning program at Youngstown State University are a match made in Ohio.
“I knew I wanted to do curriculum and instruction,” she said. “As I researched different programs, I felt like a lot of the coursework included information that I had already taken and seen in my undergrad.
“When I stumbled on the M.S. Ed. program at Youngstown State, almost everything in it was something new and interesting to me that would help improve my practice in new ways. I also loved that it was all online.”
Gale teaches eighth-grade math at Lakeview Middle School in Cortland, Ohio, where she was once a student. The program curriculum has been more applicable to the real world than she could have imagined.
“I have used everything that I have learned,” she said. “The week after we had a big assignment on how to do online learning and teaching, COVID-19 hit. It was kind of ironic. I could turn that around and use it. Everything that I have created or had to do for an assignment has been relevant.
“In light of the pandemic, I helped do a professional development with my co-worker for the school on how to do flipped learning, blended learning and different technologies. All of that came from the master’s degree program.”
The flexibility of the online format also helps Gale strike a balance between being a teacher and a student.
“It’s been quite manageable,” she said. “I work on school in the evenings for a few hours. It was easy to learn the platform and the management system.”
Coming Full Circle
As a high school student, Gale was a tutor, and several of her teachers suggested that she pursue a career as an educator.
“I didn’t want to hear that at the time, but I went to college and after trying out a few different majors realized that teaching is where I belonged and what I liked to do,” she said. “They were right. Coming back to Cortland to teach has always been the goal.”
Gale graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education with a minor in mathematics from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2015. She took a couple of online courses there before she enrolled at YSU.
“I love that the there is a class on coding and gaming in the master’s degree program,” she said. “I had a coding background from my undergraduate. The master’s degree curriculum was different enough that it fit my needs.”
TCED 6906: Designing Curriculum for Digital Teaching and Learning is Gale’s favorite course in the online M.S. Ed. program.
“We got to deconstruct our current curriculum and put it back together in that course,” she said. “It was eye-opening to see the differences.
“Everyone my age grew up with a direct instruction teacher in front of the room, so removing that and being able to learn alongside your students was most beneficial. From that project, I have changed my classroom this fall.”
The Home Stretch
With graduation day approaching and a new school year up and running, Gale is taking advantage of her expanded knowledge on a daily basis. She is excited about the future of her career as an educator and for her potential.
“I believe this master’s degree will help open up some opportunities for me,” she said. “At some point, I’d like to do something with curriculum and instruction.
“I know the degree provides opportunities for you to design online curriculum at the college level. That would be interesting, but I’m also very happy with my current job.”
Gale, who sometimes works as a florist and a barista on the side and enjoys fixing up her home, has had lots of encouragement from her family and friends since enrolling at Youngstown State in October 2019.
“They’re all excited and very supportive,” she said. “My mom has a master’s degree. I would like to walk in the commencement ceremony if we can have one.”
Now that Gale is almost finished with the master’s degree, she has some advice for potential online students considering the same program.
“Have an open mind,” she said. “The professors are all approachable and easy to access. They are there for you and ready to help. Don’t be afraid to contact them and ask questions. They get back to you quickly. I’ve had a great experience at Youngstown State.”