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Arkansas State University

Katie Williams Lays Groundwork for Next Phase of Career With Online Degree

A-STATE MSE student Katie Williams

With the option to retire on the horizon, kindergarten teacher Katie Williams is preparing for life after the classroom.

“My passion right now is dyslexia,” she said. “I am thinking I would like to work with children in that area. I can retire from teaching in four years.”

Williams is on track to complete the online Master of Science in Education (MSE) in Early Childhood Education program at Arkansas State University (A-State) in August 2022.

“I was looking for a program where I could get my master’s degree in early childhood education,” she said. “A lot of my friends got degrees in administration or reading just to have them. I wanted something applicable that was fully online.”

Williams who teaches at Horace Mann Elementary School in Springfield, Missouri found what she was looking for at A-State. She had wanted to return to school for years.

“My husband, Tracy, is a principal who has earned multiple degrees,” she said. “He begged me to go back for a long time. I drug my feet because I had been out of college for so long.

“I wasn’t the best undergrad student, so I was pretty nervous about going back. Sometimes I’ll screenshot my grades and send it to my parents.”

The flexibility of the online format was crucial for Williams. In addition to working full time, she and her husband have two daughters — Bella (18) and Gabby (15).

“It has been perfect,” she said. “You get your module on Monday, and everything is due on Sunday. I can work at my own pace, which is nice because I stay busy.”

Family Business

Williams hails from southeast Iowa, where she became interested in an education career at an early age.

She followed that path and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and early childhood special education from Iowa State University in 1996.

“I grew up in a family with education,” she said. “My mom was a teacher. My first draw was special education — that’s the field I went into.

“I taught early childhood special education, which I was always interested in. From there, it evolved into teaching kindergarten.”

Although Williams had been out of school for a while before enrolling at A-State in May 2021, she experienced online education as a teacher.

“We started using Canvas in teaching during the pandemic,” she said. “So, I was somewhat familiar with the setup before I enrolled.”

Teaching and Assessment is Williams’s favorite course in the online MSE in Early Childhood Education curriculum.

“It made me think about some of the assessments that I do a little differently and how I could tweak them, or things that I was doing that I wasn’t thinking of as they relate to the assessment piece,” she said.

“The knowledge I have gained in the program has been very applicable to what I do in the classroom. It’s been useful, beneficial information.”

Williams is also excited that she will have a master’s degree quickly, thanks to the accelerated pace that allows students to finish in as few as 12 months.

“I have received good value out of the program at A-State,” she said. “I have been impressed that I got it done in a little over a year. I love that it was set up with 7-week courses.”

Down the Stretch

Williams looks forward to wrapping up the online master’s degree program as her eldest daughter prepares to begin her college journey at the University of Arkansas in the fall.

“My family is excited for me to go back to school,” she said. “Sometimes, I ask my 18-year-old technology questions.”

Even though Williams is new to online learning as a student, she has especially enjoyed building relationships with her classmates in the MSE in Early Childhood Education online program.

“I am amazed by the support I have received from other people in my classes,” she said. “We kind of have our own little community. Even though I have never met them face-to-face, we have formed some relationships where we can help each other out and bounce ideas off each other.

“That’s a huge help. I wouldn’t have thought I could have that in an online program. There’s a woman on the east coast, and then there is one who is an hour away from me.”

Williams also said the A-State faculty makes earning an online degree seamless with its support through their availability and responsiveness.

She looks forward to seeing which direction her career takes once she retires from the classroom and seeks new opportunities.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I believe having this master’s degree will help open some opportunities for me in my career. That’s the reason why I went back.”

Learn more about A-State’s online MSE in Early Childhood Education program.

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