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Student Spotlight - MA in Secondary Education (Reading Specialist P-12 Certification)

From Passion to Career

Amber Smith

Reading has always been Amber's passion. Her mother taught her to read before kindergarten. From there, it was a never-ending adventure from one book to the next until she amassed a wealth of favorite authors such as Shakespeare, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen. She also enjoys modern literature in the form of popular dystopian novels and the Harry Potter series. 

It was this passion that inspired Amber to become an English teacher. 

“My ultimate goal in teaching is to show young people that a magic exists in reading that rivals any other pastime.” 

However, after earning her teaching certificate, Amber realized she was unprepared for the reality of the English classroom. 

“After my first year of teaching, I realized that a dire need exists for teachers who know how to intervene and work with older students struggling to read. When I graduated with a bachelor's degree in secondary education, I was simply not prepared for a real life classroom. My undergraduate training prepared me for a utopian classroom with on-level and above-level readers all interested in striving to reach bigger and better goals. My real-life classroom, however, held very few on-level readers and even fewer above-level readers. This made me realize that I needed more education and preparation that on-the-job training simply could not provide.” 

The Research Began 

“I wanted to earn a degree from a reputable university that would challenge my thinking. I did not want to simply pay for a meaningless degree that might be looked down upon in the future - in fact, in my quest for a challenging and useful master's degree program, I found one university whose master's degrees are not even recognized in some states.” 

After some time spent comparing programs, Amber decided to earn her master's degree with P-12 Reading Specialist certification from The University of Alabama. The online format was a perfect fit for Amber who works full-time and lives in Mississippi. 

“If I'm going to invest two years of my life to earn an advanced degree, I want to emerge from the experience as a more well-rounded and well-informed individual. The University of Alabama has done just that for me, and at a competitive tuition rate.” 

Interactive Classes

A big misconception with distance learning is that you are on your own - you do not get to interact with teachers and classmates. 

“The online format is not impersonal as some might think. My professors are caring and involved in my progress, and we stay in frequent communication via email, telephone and Skype. In fact, I have been observed more often in this online master's degree program than I was in my face-to-face bachelor's degree program. I record myself completing lessons with my students, my professors view the recordings, and then we Skype as a follow-up.” 

Positively Impacting All of Her Students

“This degree has done exactly what I hoped it would. Although I have not yet graduated, the knowledge I have gleaned from my professors has already helped me in the classroom. I have been able to apply strategies I've learned and help my lower-level readers by bringing them closer and closer to reading at grade level. I've learned how to assess the current reading levels of the struggling readers in my class—often inclusion students—diagnose the specific skills with which they struggle, and work with them as I track their progress. I feel that the knowledge provided through this program of study has better equipped me to help all of the students who enter my classroom regardless of reading level.” 

“To anyone interested in pursuing Reading Specialist certification, I encourage you to look further into this program. If you desire to help your students read better, this program will provide you with the information and tools you need to do just that. You will acquire more than a degree; you will gain a better understanding of the process of reading, and you will gain a better understanding of what it means to be a an effective teacher."