I’m going back to school! Wait… did I ever leave school? Um, not really. I graduated from high school in 1999, finished my B.S. in Biology and Secondary Education in 2003, immediately got a job teaching high school science, took a bunch of online courses and teacher-enrichment courses in physics, went to the teacher’s conference on place-based and experiential learning at the Island School, and completed my M.S. in Science Education with a concentration in Biology in summer 2007. You would think that all of that education coupled with 5 years of teaching experience would be enough. However, it is not!
Why? Many reasons. The biggest reason for me is that I love to learn and challenge myself. I originally chose Biology to as a major because it was interesting, not easy. I loved taking all different courses about anatomy, physiology, genetics, and botany. However, I have to say that my favorite undergraduate course was Entomology. We spent a large amount of time outdoors each week, collecting bugs and adding them to our museum-style collections. Do I like bugs? No, although they are interesting. However, I loved being outdoors and learning in the environment. That experience shaped my teaching style, leading me to develop a field botany course, which has become my absolute favorite class to teach. My other favorite course to teach is AP Environmental Science, and I spend the last month of school with my students outdoors examining our environmental quality through a lichen study and a river study. I love to take kids outside and watch them learn. Often, I’ll have a student who teaches me something, too, from a boy scout with a neat rhyme to help identify plants to a fisherman who can tell me about his or her own experiences, to a student who (eek!) survived being struck by lightning. I love to both teach and learn by experience.
Another reason to continue my education? Partial reimbursement from my district and a salary increase when I’m finished. You mean, I can learn more, you’ll help me pay for it, and then when I’m done I’ll get paid even more? Deal! But what shall I study? Here were my options:
- A second M.S. in Environmental Education
- A 6th Year Diploma in Educational Leadership
- An Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership
Each of the programs has its own ups and downs. For example, there’s the prestige of the Ed.D. People would actually call me Dr. (although I still prefer Abbie). There’s the possiblity that I might want to become a Science Coordinator someday, so the Leadership degrees would prepare me for that, but I’m not sure if that’s even the path I want to take. And it just sounds so boring. Then there’s the second M.S. in Environmental Education, which lacks the prestige of the other degrees (but then again, two Master’s is not too shabby), but I love Environmental Education. So after a lot of consideration, research, and advice from family, colleagues, and my former advisor for my M.S., I’ve decided on a second M.S. in Environmental Education. “Follow your passion” is what many of these folks said. That’s how I got where I am today! Sounds like a good plan to me!
So I’m starting in September, and while going to school at night and working full time can be tough, I’ve already done it for 5 years, so what’s a couple more? And I have to say that I absolutely love the Environmental Education department, since I got to know most of them while working on my first M.S. in Science Education. They even do some research on Outer Island, in the Thimble Islands off Branford. I just can’t wait to get outdoors and keep learning. I’m so excited to see where this path takes me.