Tara Bradley thought her teaching career was going to end almost as soon as it began.
"Right before I started my internship in college, my first husband was killed in a car wreck," she said. "He was a teacher. I decided once I finished school that I was not going to teach. But before I finished, I got a call from a school in the county where I grew up, and they hired me."
Eleven years later, Bradley is going strong. She remarried and teaches fifth grade at Walnut Creek Elementary in McDonough, Georgia. She is also enrolled in the online Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction program at Mississippi College.
"My administrator told me that some of the board members asked him if I had my master's degree," she said. "They had some jobs they wanted to explore with me. He told me to go ahead and get started, and that he would support me all the way."
One of Bradley's co-workers told her about Mississippi College's online programs and the positive experience she had.
"I was nervous about starting school, in general, because I enjoy teaching so much," she said. "I knew that a master's degree would open up new doors and give me a pay increase.
"I looked into Mississippi College and filled out an application online. They called me the next day."
Though the fast response took her by surprise, Bradley was more than ready. She is thriving in the program and amazed that she will earn a master's degree in less than one year.
"The 10 classes have gone by pretty fast," she said. "The online format has also made it manageable. It's also very affordable. I told my husband, 'This can't be real.'"
Answering the Call
After graduating from high school, Bradley considered a career as a respiratory therapist. Instead, she worked in retail and banking for more than 17 years combined before returning to college.
The Repton, Alabama, native graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and teaching from Alabama State University in 2009. She taught in her hometown for four years and realized that being an educator was her true calling.
"Ever since I started the master's degree program, it's been an awesome feeling," she said. "I have received everything I have needed from the professors. I am an overachiever, and I don't like to be late with anything.
"Any time I have a question, they call me or reply to my emails. They have made the whole experience awesome. I had never done any online classes before doing this program. It was a smooth transition."
Two courses in the online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction program have stood out as favorites to Bradley — EDU 6535: Curriculum Development, taught by Michael Coco, and EDU 6533: Information Management Dimension of Leadership, taught by Dr. Bobby Franklin.
"Both of those professors were awesome," Bradley said. "My father-in-law had emergency surgery a couple of weeks ago, and I didn't bring my computer with me to do my assignments.
"I emailed Dr. Franklin and said, 'I promise you I did my assignment. Can I submit it as soon as I get home?' He said, 'Yes.' That meant a whole lot to me. Dr. Franklin also broke down how to analyze data from testing, which was helpful. I have been able to immediately apply that knowledge to my career."
The Finish Line
Bradley hopes to attend the commencement ceremony at Mississippi College and walk the graduation stage, with her husband, Tarrant, there to celebrate her big accomplishment. She has a son, Kiara Betts, who is a drill sergeant in the United States Army.
"My son went to school at the University of Alabama," she said. "I told him a couple of weeks ago I started school, and he was very excited. My family is supportive and excited."
Although Bradley has been in the classroom for 10 years and loves her job, she is eager to face a new challenge in her career.
"I want to go into the administration field," she said. "I don't know yet what role I want to pursue. I want to wait and see what comes along. This degree will help open up opportunities for me. So far, I have gotten great value out of the program."
Bradley, who makes and sells bracelets and tutors in her free time, has some advice for teachers who might enroll in one of Mississippi College's M.Ed. programs:
"I would say to not be afraid," she said. "Pick the right program for you and do it for yourself. Find a program that fits your needs. Also, find someone who is going to be there to support you all the way. The support is very important to me."
Finishing a degree in as few as 10 months doesn't hurt, either.
Learn more about MC's online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction program.
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