Sherie Mauney had a deal for her children, Allison, Andrew and Angela, who were all teachers and still living at home.
“I told them, ‘Before you get married and have all of that responsibility, you should go ahead and get a master’s degree and have all of that behind you.’ I said, ‘If you do it, I’ll do it,’” Mauney explained.
She also convinced a colleague, Wendy Smith, to join them and make their own quintet in the online master’s degree program at Arkansas State University. True to her word, Mauney graduated with a Master of Science in Educational Theory and Practice in 2013, nearly 30 years after she earned a bachelor’s degree.
“My kids said, ‘Well, if you can do it, then, yeah, we’ll do it,’” Mauney said. “We graduated together.”
In addition to enhancing the experience on graduation day, having her crew go through the online degree program with Mauney proved beneficial.
“Working online, you’re not always going to be face-to-face with an instructor,” she said. “As teachers, we’re accustomed to reading people. Figuring out what that individual wants is difficult, but if you have somebody else who is reading the same material and the same instructions and you can interpret for one another, sometimes it’s more helpful. You can also encourage one another along the way.”
Additionally, Mauney said the group often studied together when schedules allowed.
“It was tough,” she said. “We would schedule a night or two during the week. If that didn’t work out, all of us would get together on Saturday morning. The reading and all of that you had to do is impossible to do all together with that many schedules.”
Calm Before the Storm
Following her graduation from Arkansas State University’s online degree program, Mauney and her husband, Randy, a pastor, have faced some major life changes.
Mauney retired from teaching in May 2015 after the family moved back home to Lamar, Mississippi. Seven months later, they lost their home in a tornado two days before Christmas. The family was able to escape without injury, although a tree nearly took out the vehicle they were in.
“A huge tree just brushed the front of our vehicle, but the wind snapped the tops from our huge pine trees and slammed them into us, totaling the vehicle with us inside,” she said. “Within seconds, it was over, and a weird quietness fell around us.”
Their home was condemned as it suffered severe storm damage. With no replacement insurance or FEMA assistance to rebuild their home, the Mauneys had to go back to square one.
“Our house that was paid for was gone,” Mauney said. “Needless to say, in our middle age, my husband and I are starting over. He got a secular job, and I took a teaching position that became available fall of 2016.”
Back to School
One of the main reasons Mauney wanted to go back to earn a Master of Science in Educational Theory and Practice online from Arkansas State University was because she could make it work financially.
“I got my National Board Certification in 2001,” she said. “I’ve always pursued continuing education. I just never felt like I could afford to get a master’s degree because the priority has always been for my husband’s position in ministry.
“If we had to up and move or whatever we had to do, mine was a secondary position so that he could go on mission trips and all of that. Whatever I earned was to make his career easier, so that we could go where he felt like the Lord wanted us to go. Our finances didn’t have to be the priority.”
Mauney heard about the A-State online program while teaching in DeSoto County Schools in Mississippi. Finally, she knew she could make the finances work for her master’s degree.
“The way it was split up financially, so that we could pay for a class at a time, was perfect,” she said. “It had a good structure outline to the program so that it would fit with my schedule at work and, of course, my responsibilities at church, too. That worked well. Online was going to be the only way I could do it.”
Mauney said the curriculum had a wide variety of topics she could immediately apply to her career.
“I enjoyed the classes that gave practical experience with the educational theory,” she said. “They gave illustration and assignment with projects that were useful in the classroom. It may not have spoken specifically to my classroom, but it was something that I could adapt and make application with.”
However, Mauney’s favorite course was School and Community Relations [ELAD 6003].
“It had to do with how to evaluate the community based on demographics, needs of the family, and how to reach your students and their families beyond just the kids coming into your classroom and being taught,” she said. “You’re able to actually reach into the community.”
Mauney and her family have picked up the pieces since the storm. She now teaches at Ripley High School in Mississippi in the Special Education program alongside Andrew, while Randy continues to search for a new church.
“We moved back to the country so our kids could find some country mates,” she said.
Of course, Mauney is just happy they are all still around to see what’s on the horizon. Whatever comes her way, she’ll be ready.
“We are very proud to be alive and are continually amazed when we consider where the tree tops hit our vehicle were strategically placed so that we were not injured,” Mauney said. “Just a few inches’ difference and this would be a different story … or, should I say, no story at all. The Lord is good.”
Learn more about the A-State online MSE in Educational Theory and Practice program.