Student Testimonial: The Importance of Community at CU Online

Taylor Tillman always wanted to become a teacher. When it was time to take her next step and pursue a graduate program in education, the dedicated support of the Campbellsville University Online community drew her to the Master of Arts in Teaching in Early Childhood Education (MAT). Now a successful pre-K teacher, Taylor said that Campbellsville University’s expert faculty, a toolbox of real-world resources and an encouraging network of peers have been a tremendous help on her journey.

Knowledgeable and Devoted Faculty: ‘The support is unbelievable’

Taylor always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but starting a teaching career during a pandemic was challenging. Within the first six months of her MAT experience, she found herself in three different schools due to ongoing teacher shortages. Taylor appreciated that “my professors were very flexible with getting things turned in as I set up new classrooms.”

Then, Taylor was assigned to teach at a school she was unfamiliar with. When her university mentor, Julie Ball, heard about the situation, she sprung into action. According to Taylor, Ball spent time helping her set up a new classroom even though it meant driving to Louisville from Campbellsville: “Ms. Julie spent the entire week with me – eight hours every day.” The placement ultimately ended up a success for Taylor, which prepared her for changes to come. Taylor said:

“Now I’m in my third transition to a new school, and I feel completely equipped. I feel confident. It’s smooth.”

The support she received from the faculty helped Taylor foster adaptability that will continue for her entire career. Taylor was also happy with the practical teaching tools she developed with the guidance of her professors.

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Filling the Toolbox: ‘They set me up for success’

Lesson planning and classroom management seem daunting for those new to teaching. In her online MAT program, Taylor found that “anything and everything that you need to be a teacher, they will give you.” She created example lesson plans in her courses before she began teaching, and then she was able to implement those lesson plans with minimal changes for different contexts. And the same concept applied to classroom management and instructional activities.

“The same exact things that you’re doing in your courses are the same exact things you’re doing in the classroom.”

Throughout her program, Taylor also learned how to set up a classroom, divide a class into groups, and confidently problem-solve different scenarios. Most importantly, Taylor said she learned “how to meet kids where they are.” Her expert professors equipped Taylor with the tools to create developmentally appropriate materials for children with various backgrounds.

In addition to her dedicated mentors and professors, Taylor spoke highly of the friends she met in her MAT program.

Sharing the Experience: ‘We’ve all been through the program together’

At the beginning of her MAT program, Taylor thought it might be a good idea to get to know her classmates. She reached out to a few names on the roster of her first online MAT class. When a couple of her classmates responded, it was the beginning of friendships that would last the rest of the program.

Throughout online classes, field experience and their job search, all of the students involved with the MAT program formed a tight-knit group. Taylor was surprised to find that, “While I was completely online, there was a literal community.” Taylor and her friends have graduated from the MAT program, but Taylor says that they are still in touch:

“We are in different parts of Kentucky, but we are all going through the exact same thing. The community that I have built in this program has far exceeded my expectations. I was even able to reach out and talk to people that had gone through the MAT program.”

Taylor also got to speak with graduates of the MAT program, who talked about pathways to certification. These conversations helped Taylor realize that her best option was to pursue Option 6 certification, which allows individuals who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a non-teaching major to pursue initial teacher certification. That way, Taylor could build on her social services experience and get into the classroom faster.

On her way to certification, Taylor said that she built a network of professional relationships she could turn to as she transitioned to the world of education.

New Connections: ‘My professional network grew tremendously’

Taylor said the educational service world differs from the world of social services. She had six years of experience working with children at Maryhurst, a not-for-profit child welfare organization in Kentucky. Still, she needed to develop a different set of skills to teach. Campbellsville University’s online MAT program taught Taylor how to bring her unique experience to the classroom and provided a network of educational connections that she believes “will take me far in my professional life.”

As she considers pursuing a counseling-based role in education, Taylor can rely on her network to help her plan for the transition:

“I’ve already met three counselors, and they’ve given me tips and tricks on what to do, how to do it, and what the best route would be.”

With faculty support, encouraging peers and a network of professional contacts, Taylor built community while she found the path to her ideal career. She valued her experience so much that Taylor plans to pursue her graduate degree in counseling with Campbellsville University Online.

If you’re ready to become part of an exciting online learning community, read more about the online MAT in Early Childhood Education and explore more of Campbellsville University’s online programs.