Kimberly Rego of Spotswood, NJ., a sixth-grade Language Arts teacher, had been thinking about going to graduate school, but wasn’t sure where to start. Then, she received an email from her school about GCU graduate classes for educators. “I didn’t know where to go, but when this came up, I said to myself, you know what, I am going to do it!”
In 2021, she enrolled in the Reading/Literacy Specialization master’s degree program at GCU. As a Special Ed teacher, Rego was perplexed by how many students she was seeing that still didn’t know how to read by the time they got to her classroom. “I wanted to help them, but I didn’t know how. I had to help myself first so I could help them, so, I went back to school to learn more about the reading process,” said Rego.
The coursework is comprehensive, covering theories and processes of reading and writing, how to diagnose and remediate reading issues, and how to coach students for greater success. “It took me back all the way to kindergarten, first and second grade, and the skills they need to learn, how quickly they can read and learn vocabulary, decoding, it broke it all down. This degree has helped me figure out the skills they were missing so I could help them learn to read.”
Juggling a full-time teaching job and earning a graduate degree is hard, but Rego said having the program online made a huge difference. “I enjoyed how quickly it went and it was not too hard to handle two classes at a time each semester. It fit me so well because I like to work at my own pace and I didn’t have to wait for the next class. I ended up really liking the program it was perfect for me.”
One challenge Rego didn’t anticipate was the unexpected death of her father during her first semester in graduate school, but her determination and the assistance of the faculty helped her keep going. “I had a really good group of professors who were so compassionate and so willing to help me out, and that alone has shown me people do care. They made sure I had what I needed and let me take my time, I didn’t want to skip assignments – that is not part of my work ethic.”
Rego maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout the program. She will graduate in May with a Master’s Degree in Education and receive certification as a reading specialist in June, right before welcoming her first child.
Rego doesn’t plan on switching jobs, but hopes to use her new skills to help her students. “As a reading specialist, I will be able to help students in smaller groups and work more closely with them to improve their reading. But for now, I will stay in my same position because I really love what I do.”
Rego has been teaching at Middlesex Boro Public Schools for the past four years and has been working as a teacher since 2017.
Her advice to other professionals looking to go back to school to pursue graduate studies: “It’s never going to be easy, but it is always going to be worth it. As long as you work hard and push through, it will really pay off in the end.”