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Arkansas State University

Tavia Matthews Seizes Opportunity to Earn Master’s Degree Early in Career

A-STATE MS ECE student Tavia Matthews

After gaining one year of experience in the classroom, Tavia Matthews took advantage of the ideal moment to strike while the iron was hot.

“I knew I wanted to go back to school to continue my higher education,” she said. “With some experience under my belt, it felt like a good time in my life to return to college.”

Now, Matthews 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. A friend Matthews graduated with during her undergraduate degree suggested she enroll in the master’s program.

“[They] started the master’s degree in early childhood education at A-State and recommended it to me,” she said.

“I looked into it and factored in tuition cost and the fact that the degree was all online. It was a good fit for me. I chose early childhood education because I want to keep growing in that area.”

Matthews teaches kindergarten at School of the Osage in Lake Ozark, Missouri, where she is from. The flexibility of the online format makes earning an advanced degree while teaching full time manageable.

“I enjoy the master’s degree program being online,” she said. “It helps me stay disciplined and organized, working out how to fit school in with my schedule. The professors are good with the deadlines and providing due dates so you can be organized.

“We get the course schedule before the semester begins, so I can plan it out on my calendar — I’m that type of person who has to have everything written out. That’s been helpful to me.”

Into the Groove

Although Matthews didn’t have her sights set on any particular career path when she enrolled at Missouri State University for her undergraduate degree, she found her calling and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education in December 2019.

“I went into college undecided, but I immediately knew that teaching was my route,” she said. “Once I did, I quickly got into those classes.

“I knew that I wanted to teach younger kids, which is why I chose early childhood education. Since then, I always had a passion for teaching. It’s something I always want to do.”

Matthews had a little experience as an online student in her hybrid undergraduate program. Still, the online MSE in Early Childhood Education program is her first time as a student in a fully online program. She hit the ground running after enrolling at A-State in June 2021.

“I have been able to apply the knowledge I have gained in each course in the master’s program,” she said. “I have already used some things I created in my classroom. It’s been good and beneficial.

“I especially liked Technology in Early Childhood and Developmental Perspectives. Those were both interesting courses that I learned a lot from and could use right away in my career as an educator.”

Even though Matthews enjoys being in the classroom and has no plans to change jobs anytime soon, she believes that she has a solid foundation to build on if she wants to someday branch out into a different role.

“Having a master’s degree in early childhood education from A-State will most definitely help open up opportunities for me in my career,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

The Home Stretch

Matthews, who enjoys spending her free time at the pool and boating on Lake Ozark, said that her family and friends encouraged her throughout her time as an undergraduate and in the online MSE in Early Childhood Education program.

“They were very supportive of me getting my higher education,” she said. “They’re super proud that I am almost done…I haven’t ruled out walking in the commencement ceremony.”

Primarily because of the accelerated coursework in the online master’s degree program, Matthews recommends that students in the program focus as much as possible on school but also make time to decompress.

Now that Matthews is wrapping up her time at A-State and recently completed her second year of teaching kindergarten, she knows that she made the right choice to heed her friend’s advice. She’s also paying it forward.

“It’s been a great program,” she said. “I would recommend it to others. In fact, I have already told some of my friends, ‘If you’re going to get a master’s degree, you should go to Arkansas State University.”

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

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