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Arkansas State University

Online Ed.S. Student Ashley Lilly Dives into Middle Schoolers’ Minds

AState EdS Ed Leadership student Ashley

Middle school is a time of transition for children. If they’re anything like Ashley Lilly, it’s a time when their first ideas about a career take shape.

“In middle school, I was definitely a band nerd, so the first profession that I declared for myself was to become a band teacher,” Lilly said. “Eventually, I became interested in business, and once I graduated from high school, I earned my degree in business management.”

Lilly then found related work, but something about the call to become a teacher had persisted since she heard it in middle school.

“After getting into my career field, I still wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “Since I already had experience in the business world, it made sense for me to become a business teacher.”

Today, Lilly teaches business and computer science classes at Camden Fairview Middle School in Camden, Arkansas, and she is taking classes in Arkansas State University’s Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Curriculum Director online program to hone her professional skills.

“When I started this job, there were no lesson plans,” she said. “I was just given a set of standards to work with and shape my own class. What interested me about the A-State program was learning more about designing curriculum, so that I could make my own classes better.”

Mind Over Matter

Though Lilly started the program to fill gaps in her knowledge, she is finding it has broadened her perspective outside of the classroom too. One course in particular gave her a new appreciation for the tools at her disposal.

“I really enjoyed Middle School Curriculum [ELCI 6423],” she said. “It has molded me into a better teacher. I look at things differently than I did before with the skills that I’ve learned in class.”

Some skills are learned through studying while others are learned through doing. Lilly’s exposure to online coursework showed her the need to prepare students for the digital classrooms that await them when they grow up.

“I’ve learned how to build my class in a way that gives my students a feel for the college experience,” she said. “My classes are hybrid classes. I mirror the Blackboard site I use in the classes I take, using Google Classroom instead for the classes I teach,” she said.

What is more important is how Lilly’s Ed.S. program has given her a deeper understanding of the young people in her classroom.

“I’ve learned more about the mind of the middle school student,” she said. “Their minds are a lot different from ours. Middle schoolers are at an age where they need a regular teacher and a mentor to help guide them.

“It’s a tough age transitioning from elementary to high school. They’re moving from thinking the world revolves around them to identifying who they are, how they affect other people and how other people affect them.”

Lilly is starting to think about where her career will go from here, now that she feels better equipped to prepare her students for the future.

“For right now, I hope to remain in the classroom for at least a couple more years because that’s where I can really make an impact on my students,” she said. “Eventually, I would like to get out of the classroom and go into administration and curriculum design.”

She expects to be able to make a larger impact on middle schoolers’ education by the time she graduates in spring 2020.

Help and Rewards

Whether you’re a middle schooler or a returning college student, the right support at the right time is crucial for effective learning, and Lilly has found the professors in A-State’s online Ed.S. program to be helpful and understanding.

“I’ve had Dr. Annette Hux for at least four classes now, so I feel like I’m more than just my assignments. We have a real teacher-student relationship.”

Setting an example and building a better life for her children, Frederick III (6), Asia (5) and 5-month-old Langston, are important to Lilly, who gave birth to her youngest while in the program.

“I was actually taking the Middle School Curriculum class and had an assignment due while I was in the hospital,” she said. “I notified my professors ahead of time that I could go into labor at any time, but I also tried to work on my assignments ahead of time, so I wouldn’t be too far behind.”

Lilly also credits her husband for making everything just a little bit easier at home as she works through the program.

“The biggest help that I’ve had is definitely my husband Fredrick,” she said. “We’ve done it for each other. When he was in school, I would take on more tasks than I normally would, and now, the tables have turned. He does a lot of things to help me when I need time to get my school work done.”

Lilly is seeing everything she set out to accomplish through the program come together perfectly. She recommends A-State’s online program to anyone who is looking to add the career-enhancing Ed.S. credential.

“Pursuing this degree is definitely worthwhile,” she said. “It is fulfilling and rewarding, and it has the potential to pay back in dividends. If you want to pursue your education further, then this would definitely be the route to go.”

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s Ed.S. in Educational Leadership, Curriculum Director online program.

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