We sat down with UMBC’s Masters of Art in Education program director, Jerri Frick, to learn more about this unique program and how it’s helping certified teachers gain more success in their careers. 

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What is the value of a Masters of Art in Education degree?

Currently, in industry, we know that computer science mathematics, and STEM are highly sought after careers. And there are a lot of job opportunities in those areas right now. Our program helps prepare our students, professionals who are already certified teachers, to teach these content areas to students in pre-K through 12th grade.

Our MAE program is training and educating certified teachers so that they can properly educate their K-12 grade students in these ever-changing content areas. We stay on top of current technology and best teaching practices, so we can help certified teachers make the best choices in their classroom.

What Does the Industry Look Like for Future STEM Careers for P-12 Students?

STEM occupations in this country have been growing and continue to grow faster than employment in non-STEM occupations. (2004-2014, 24.4% versus 4.0%, respectively) 2014 to 2024 expected to grow 8.9% versus 6.4%. (US Dept of Commerce)

Our program is working to prepare the teachers, who will, in turn, prepare their P-12 students, for these careers to meet the current shortage and future demands in the STEM workforce. For 2018, it was projected that 2.4 million STEM-related jobs would be unfilled. (Smithsonian Science Education Center)

Who could benefit from this program?

Any certified teacher who is interested in enhancing their content knowledge, their pedagogy knowledge, or their teaching skills should definitely think about applying to this program if interested in the field of computer science, mathematics, or STEM. Our program could lead to additional endorsements or additional certifications to go through the process of obtaining those additional certifications in different content areas. Obtaining the MAE degree is a way for certified teachers to add to their current education knowledge.

What makes UMBC’s MAE program stand apart from similar programs at other institutions?

UMBC’s MAE program has a strong focus on the content area. So half of our MAE degree is focused solely on the content area whether that’s computer science, mathematics, or interdisciplinary STEM. That’s unique from other universities. The other half of our program focuses on things such as teacher research, teacher leadership, and making sure that we’re enhancing all pedagogical skills. We’re helping our teachers be future leaders in their schools with their content knowledge within their school systems.

Additionally, our program is designed to be on pace as the first university in the state of Maryland to offer a fully online computer science program for certified teachers. That’s so important because so many states are coming on board with new computer science standards. So teachers need to be able to have that content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge to be able to teach those courses.

Why should a certified teacher consider this degree?

In the Interdisciplinary STEM content area, UMBC is one of five universities in the state of Maryland to offer the endorsement for the pre-K to 6 STEM Instructional Leader Endorsement. That’s an additional endorsement to add to a teaching certificate. If you’re in the state of Maryland, you can apply to that program and obtain that certification.

In mathematics, we’ve been teaching fully online for five years. So we have become the leaders in our MAE program at creating, developing, and teaching fully online. We offer that as a great benefit to keep continuing and improving our programs.

We have a lot of certified teachers who are now instructing online and they can follow some of the same elements they’ve learned in our classes. We’re definitely here to help them. We’re able to do that because of our commitments to online teaching and online education in those specific content areas. So it’s not just general online teaching they’re learning. We’re actually teaching the same content areas that those certified teachers in our school system are teaching.

Can you tell us some of the highlights of your curriculum?

The themes throughout our entire MAE program, no matter the content area, is culturally responsive instruction. It’s important right now for teachers to understand how they can reach all of their students. Some of the best practices for reaching all of our students is making sure that we’re aware of all of the needs of the students and working to meet those needs.

Also, we focus on teaching research. This means the teachers are going to look at data that they already get in their classrooms. This data will help inform their thinking about ways they can improve their teaching, modify teaching strategies, or continue changing things up to best help their students learn.

Additionally, we focus on leadership. When we talk about teacher leadership in our program, we’re talking about leaders in the content area. We want teachers to be some of the most experienced people in their school within their content area, whether that’s computer science, mathematics, or Interdisciplinary STEM.

Computer Science Focus

Some of the areas of computer science that we focus on are algorithms and programming and understanding how you go from the algorithm to programming to actually programming in specific languages that meet the current needs of today.

Mathematics Focus

With mathematics, we focus on the content areas that teachers will be teaching in their school systems. So a teacher might end up instructing in Pre-k where they’re focusing on kindergarten numbers to beginning operations with the numbers, addition, subtraction, and so on, up through algebra, geometry, and into calculus. We’re focusing strictly on those content areas that teachers could be teaching and really enhancing their knowledge in those areas.

Interdisciplinary STEM Focus

In our Interdisciplinary STEM program, some of the things that we focus on in our coursework are designing projects and experiments. Also, there’s a big theme right now in environmental science and engineering and using engineering to reach across those disciplines. That’s one example of how teachers reach across those disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to make sure they’re doing more process-based learning, experiments, and making connections between these fields. These fields, as we know, are so important in our job force right now.

Can you speak to a busy school teacher taking this program and balancing it with life?

Balance is of utmost importance to our certified teacher students. They need to be able to balance their families, teaching jobs, and graduate school. One of the ways we help with this is by having the program fully online. Teachers can use their time as best as what works for them with this format. They are able to complete coursework in the middle of the night, on the weekend, or whenever they desire. We have dates, of course, for when assignments are due. They’re not self-paced courses, but certified teachers are able to work when it’s most convenient for them.

Asynchronous and Synchronous Instruction

We offer both asynchronous and synchronous classes. Asynchronous classes are online, but not at an assigned time. Whereas with synchronous, a certified teacher will need to log on to the class at a specific time. This offers a live teaching interaction with instructors, which is highly beneficial.

Flexible Focus

We also advise our certified teacher students to only take one or two classes a semester. Attending graduate school part-time while working full-time is achievable this way. If a student wants to take more classes, they can. We’re flexible. Let’s say that something happens and they need to take a semester off. We’ll work with them as best we can to ensure they can continue with their degree of study without any interruptions.

We understand that life, family, and work gets busy. We want to make sure that our students aren’t overwhelmed with the type of coursework they are doing while working full time.

Our program is rigorous. But we also understand that we’re working with adults who have busy careers, very time-consuming careers. We want to make sure that they’re successful in their coursework. We’re all fully aware of the complexities teachers have in their educational jobs and we absolutely respect that and work with our students throughout the entire program.

Is there anything else you think we should know about the MAE program at UMBC?

In our MAE program, we like to grow our own. We hire adjuncts who are actually graduates of our program to teach in our courses. They become master certified teachers who teach in our school system. They have the benefit of obtaining an advanced graduate degree in their content area to then teach our certified teacher students. It’s a great pathway for a teacher’s professional development.

Another great feature of our program is that it’s offered at a great price right now. It’s $12,000 for a fully online master’s degree, which is only $1000 per 3-credit course. We have twelve 3- credit courses in our program. We also waive all the extra fees that you often see with higher education. They’re gone. You don’t have to worry about those. The only additional cost you would have to consider is for textbooks or other course materials, which we do keep to a very reasonable price. We do this because we know we are working with teachers who work very hard for the money that they earn.

Our MAE Community

In our MAE program, we learn so much from each other. We learn from our teachers, our classes, from across many different school districts, and across different states. We use that shared knowledge and incorporate it into our courses to make those courses even better. We aim to extend that learning experience and learning community to all of our teachers in our program. We want to make sure that we use every bit of technology that we have to better educate and to better enhance that community of learners in our MAE program.

Reach Together

If you’re a certified teacher interested in taking your career to a new, highly-focused level in the areas of either computer science, mathematics, or interdisciplinary STEM, please contact us so we can chat about the advantages of UMBC’s Masters of Art in Education program. We’re here to help you succeed!

Reach out to us!

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