Today we feature Rowan Global alumna Kristi Lancaster, who recently earned both her master’s degree in Learning Disabilities and a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant (LDTC) certification. Kristi discovered the programs through the New Jersey Teacher Outreach Program (NJTOP®), which supports state educators by making accelerated, graduate-level programs accessible either online at satellite locations, at a discounted rate. Kristi works as a master teacher for a Cumberland County elementary school district.
Can you explain what a master teacher is?
A master teacher is an instructional coach. We support the teachers by setting up or delivering professional development, modeling or co-teaching lessons, and assisting with district programs. We also analyze and share out on school and district-level data. We assist with the communication between the curriculum, instruction and assessment team and the teachers.
What made you decide to go for your master’s degree?
At that time, I was a general education teacher assigned to teach in an inclusion classroom, and I saw a lot of things going on in the special education program that I thought could be improved. I decided I wanted to get my LDTC certification, and in doing that I needed to get my master’s in learning disabilities.
Well, I wanted to stay local. I have two children, so I didn’t want to be far from them. Completing classes and classwork online really helped. The combination of the master’s degree and the LDTC certification [at the time] helped also. The NJTOP program, with accelerated online classes and discounted tuition, tipped the scales and finalized my decision to pursue my degree at Rowan.
Has there been a class that has been impactful for you?
There was a class on positive behavior supports that really helped to kind of change the way that I think about behavior issues and offered me a different perspective.
What is one thing you wish people knew about your academic discipline?
This is really specific to the LDTC, [but] a lot of times there’s friction between teachers and the LDTC, and I guess the biggest thing I’d like people to know is that we’re all on the side of the kids. It’s about everyone working together for the sake of the students involved, and functioning as a team in the child study team is extremely important.
Where do you see yourself after earning your degree?
Right now, I’m in a position that I love. I do love where I am right now, but where I see myself next is I would like to transition from the role of a teacher to the LDTC. So I would be doing more of the testing, child study team meetings, and things along those lines.
I’m also interested in pursuing a doctorate eventually, so that’s something I may be looking into. I may want to one day pursue opportunities in administration. At this moment, I’m not really sure. It’s exciting to know that there are still unknowns.
On your busiest day, what academic, non-academic and social responsibilities are you juggling?
I am a mother of two kids. I’m married. We have an English bulldog named Tank. During the school day, I check in with teachers, answer emails about any curriculum-based questions they may have, and visit classrooms. If I have a model lesson set up, I would go and do that. I may have a meeting with [someone from] administration, whether it’s building level or district level. I have different data-based projects throughout the year that I am responsible for, so I try to keep my school assessment data as up-to-date as possible. I’m also responsible for delivering online professional development for teachings, so I spend time planning those presentations.
I live about an hour from work, so the commute also takes up a lot of time. My children both play sports, so that takes up the rest of my time after school. My son has a lot of food allergies, so I have been promoted to head chef here at our house. I do a lot of allergy-friendly cooking. I typically work on my academic responsibilities once the kids are in bed so that I can focus as much as possible.
What is one thing this field has allowed you to do that you either dreamed of or you never thought you’d get to do?
I always saw myself in the classroom. I always wanted to be a classroom teacher, that was my number one goal all throughout high school, college. And then as I matured in my career, I started wondering about other options that were available. My preferences started to change. Rowan really opened up the door for me to explore those other opportunities that I didn’t think I’d be interested in. At this point in my life, showing up in a classroom every day is really difficult to do, but Rowan allowed me to do that through their online degree options.
The reason teachers don’t go after the master’s is they think there’s not a way to do it. You can do this. It’s an accelerated course, it takes eight weeks rather than 16. I went slowly. But if you wanted to go quickly and take your classes back to back, it’s a two-year program if you design it that way. And Rowan, they’ve been supportive with all of my needs, my professors, anything, they’re flexible with deadlines.
As teachers, we have so much on our plates right now you can’t think about adding one more thing. But our plates are big, and you can add one more thing. Rowan makes it doable. I thought it would be impossible, but it’s not.
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