Nine Fort Dodge Community School District teachers earned their master's degrees this summer, joining the many educators in the district who hold advanced degrees.
"A majority of our folks continue their education and pursue master's degrees," Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, said. "It helps them educationally in the classroom. Of course, there are some things built into the pay schedule that helps benefit them, as well. Really, the majority of our folks continue to move forward so they can continue to learn new skills and be able to pass those off in the classroom."
Maria Lehman, Cooper Elementary kindergarten teacher, has been an educator in the district for 18 years. This summer, she received her master's degree. Her research project focused on cognitively guided instruction in math.
-Messenger photo by Brandon L. Summers
Joni Olson, Butler Elementary kindergarten teacher, helps Logan Huffman with a project. Olson is one of nine Fort Dodge school district teachers who continued their education and earned their master’s degrees this summer.
Lehman pursued earning her master's because, "I like to learn and I want to be a better teacher."
It was a challenge, though.
"There were some parts that were difficult. It took a lot of work," she said. "I probably learned the most from my research project, but it was probably the most time-consuming part."
In the end, it was worth it, Lehman said.
"It felt wonderful, actually. It's a good feeling of accomplishment," she said. "And a relief that it was over."
Joni Olson, kindergarten teacher at Butler Elementary, earned her master's degree this summer with a research project on "the daily five."
"It was a way of teaching reading and doing interventions with students to help meet their needs as individuals," she said. "You're helping children in a small group that needs help with the same skill. It proved that it was beneficial for students, so it's something I'll keep doing this year."
Olson said she wanted to further her education to help her students, but also for herself.
"When you're in school, you don't always put forth your best effort as you're going through college," she said. "I wanted to go back and get some opportunity that I feel like, looking back, I wish I would've been able to get while I was getting my bachelor's degree."
Education is ever changing, and so it's important to keep ahead and updated, Olson said.
"When I went to kindergarten, students didn't know how to write their names. They didn't know how to count," she said. "When they come into kindergarten, they're expected to know the majority of letters and they leave here knowing how to read."
She added, "Anything that I can do as a teacher to help them be better students is what I want."
Completing her master's degree was a "big relief," Olson said.
"I was proud of myself," she said. "I was pregnant at the time and I have two other little kids at home, so it was big. At times, throughout, I didn't think I could do it, so when I got done it just made me feel good inside, made me feel like I accomplished my goal, as far as helping my students."
Other teachers who earned their master's degrees this summer are Cheryl Trunnell, Carol Tell and Christie Gruber at Cooper Elementary; Jill Powell at Gordon-Willard Alternative; Breah Ewing and Heather Cochrane at Fair Oaks Middle School; and Lexi Daniel-Lara at Butler Elementary.
Van Zyl said he was proud so many teachers were electing to continue with their education.
"I think it's wonderful," he said. "What better role model and example for our own kids that education is a value and important? I'm very proud they continue to do that and hope others continue to follow in their footsteps and continue to improve themselves."
Teachers earning their master's degrees only increases the quality of education offered in Fort Dodge, Van Zyl said.
"The higher the quality of teachers you have, the easier it makes the educational process," he said.