You are here:

Interview: Tech-Savvy English Teacher Uses Online Master's Degree to Advance Career

Denylle McDowell has worked for as a teacher for more than a decade, and she's made exceptional use of her time. During her tenure as a middle school language arts teacher and department chairwoman at Yvonne Shaw Middle School in Reno, Nevada, she also taught Technology in the Classroom institutes as part of the Northern Nevada Writing Project Technology in the Classroom program. As the school year concluded in 2008, Denylle enrolled in an online master's degree program in curriculum writing and instructional leadership for a perfect opportunity: a master's degree program with a thesis option to complete all of the entries required to apply for National Board Teaching Certification, a voluntary credential that requires teachers complete 10 assessments in various areas.

Q: With so many online schools available, how did you choose?

A: That was one of the most overwhelming things about researching master's programs for me! I had a hard time choosing a program that would fit my life and needs. In the end, the program I chose offered me the most options for my master's experience. It was also a completely online program, which I preferred to some other programs' hybrid model of online courses with some in-person interaction and group projects.

Q: What are some of the challenges you faced in your online degree program?

A: One really big challenge is that not everyone is skilled at communicating expectations in an online environment. Fortunately, I had only one course where I fought with the instructor about making his expectations clear. That was enough to make me aware that he probably wasn't the best fit for an online institution. And dealing with that, as a student, was really hard.

Q: What was your favorite class?

A: It was the companion course to the course I just mentioned! That instructor was scheduled to teach both the first and second curriculum writing courses. Because he had such a tough time communicating his expectations in the first class, the second was taught by another instructor. It was fascinating, as an educator, to see the extreme differences in the two professors. And it was uplifting to see this instructor enhance and enrich the curriculum from the first course while still teaching us the new material for his course. This class was my favorite because I learned more than just the intended curriculum; because of the issues with the first instructor, this course became a practical lesson on different teaching and leadership styles.

Q: Do you feel the classes were directly relevant to your career as an educator?

A: Absolutely. This was one of the major differences between my undergrad and master's experiences. My undergrad experience prepared me for content, but not pragmatic experiences as an educator. My master's experience prepared me for both.

Q: What sorts of expectations did you have before you started your online degree program?

A: Actually, I was very skeptical of online education, before my master's. I, honestly, did not believe that you could teach, let alone learn, in an online environment. I thought all of my coursework was going to be easy with no real challenge. I thought I wouldn't take anything away from the experience, except for the degree. I was surprised by how wrong I was in all of those assumptions. I would even go so far as to say my master's coursework was harder than it would have been in a traditional setting.

Q: What career goals has your degree already helped you to achieve?

A: Well, I left the traditional classroom and started teaching at an online school myself. So, I guess it caused me to convert to being a believer in virtual education's effectiveness. It's made me want to fight to help see it legitimized as an effective option for students to learn. Because of my degree, I now work in a place where I write curriculum that is appropriate for virtual learning. I think it's the best blend of using the content of my degree and my experience in getting the master's degree to advance learning options for kids.

Though her application for National Board Certification wasn't successful, McDowell's online master's degree led her to her current job as a teacher facilitator at Nevada Connections Academy, an online public school alternative for students who aren't successful in the traditional classroom. Her online degree has also set her up perfectly for her dream job: to write a comprehensive Language Arts curriculum for middle or high school grade levels.

JoVon Sotak is a writer, community journalist, and photographer who enjoys living in the middle of nowhere, Nevada. Her articles have appeared in online and print publications in Nevada and throughout the United States.

Search Schools

Matching School Ads
  • Ashford University

    You've found Ashford University, where school comes to you. Earn your bachelor's or master's degree online.


    • MA/Education - No Specialization
    • MA/Education - Early Childhood Education
    • MA/Education - Child Development
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Ashford University Request Info »
  • Liberty University

    Liberty University provides a world-class education with a solid Christian foundation, equipping men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for success in every aspect of life.


    • M.Ed. Teaching & Learning: History
    • M.Ed. - Teaching and Learning
    • MA Teaching: Middle Grades
    • More...
    Lynchburg: 1971 University Blvd, , Lynchburg VA 24515
    Liberty University Request Info »
  • Colorado State University-Global Campus

    Colorado State University-Global Campus

    Colorado State University-Global Campus (CSU-Global) recently received state approval to enroll students with little to no prior college experience. To help ensure student success, the university has created a program especially for these students who plan on starting their college experience for the first time with us.


    • MS - Teaching and Learning
    Englewood: 7800 E Orchard Rd,, Englewood CO 80111
    Colorado State University-Global Campus Request Info »
  • Pacific Oaks College

    Pursue your education at Pacific Oaks College.


    • M.A. Education with Preliminary Education Specialist Instruction Credential
    • Preliminary Education Specialist Credential
    • Multiple Subject English Learner Teaching Credential
    • More...
    Pasadena: 55 W Eureka St,, Pasadena CA 91103
    Pacific Oaks College Request Info »
  • Concordia University - Portland

    Concordia University - Portland offers several fully online 14-month Master of Education (M.Ed.) programs and a fully online Doctorate of Education (Ed.D.) program.


    • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Social Studies
    • M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction Equity, Ethics, and Justice
    • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Common Core State Standards Instructional Leader
    • More...
    Portland: 2811 NE Holman Street,, Portland OR 97211
    Concordia University - Portland Request Info »
  • California University of Pennsylvania

    Study online with California University of Pennsylvania.


    • Early Childhood Education (Master of Education) - Online
    • Advanced Studies in Secondary Education & Teacher Leadership (Master of Education) - Online
    • Administrative Program for Principals (Master of Education) - Online
    • More...
    California: 250 University Ave,, California PA 15419
    California University of Pennsylvania Request Info »
  • Northcentral University

    Earn your graduate degree online with Northcentral University.


    • MEd - Reading Education
    • Special Education - Master of Education
    • Instructional Leadership - Master of Education
    • More...
    San Diego: 2488 Historic Decatur Rd., San Diego CA 92106
    Northcentral University Request Info »
  • Saint Joseph's University

    Founded by the Society of Jesus in 1851, Saint Joseph's University (SJU) has been developing the minds and abilities of men and women in a challenging academic environment steeped in the enriching Jesuit tradition of cura personalis (care of the entire person).


    • Masters in Secondary Education                                                   
    • Masters in Special Education                                                   
    • MS in Special Education with Wilson Reading Certification
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Saint Joseph's University Request Info »
  • University of the Rockies

    Join the community of thought leaders at University of the Rockies. Pursue your graduate degree from the University’s School of Professional Psychology or School of Organizational Leadership.


    • MA in Education

    Location: Online

    University of the Rockies Request Info »
  • Purdue University

    Purdue University offers a strong foundation of tradition and history.


    • Master of Science in Education in Special Education

    Location: Online

    Purdue University Request Info »
  • Matching School Ads

    Quick School Search

    College & Career Search Tools

    • Careers: Unsure about your career path? Study profiles of hundreds of professions.

    • Interviews: Professors and deans sit down with our team to give you unique insights on college life.

    • Military Education: Find only Military friendly online schools and campuses.

    • Student Reviews: Know before you go. Read student reviews on over 2000 accredited colleges. Write your own experience.