“I want them to feel like I inspired them to believe in themselves”: Q&A with Mischelle Strauser, MEd’17
It’s hard enough completing an MEd in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading Interventionist while raising a family and working full time. Mischelle also faced evacuating her family but still didn’t quit.
What inspired you to work in education?
Originally, what inspired me to work in education was my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Lewy. He was just an amazing teacher. He reached out to his kids and learned about them and inspired them to learn in the classroom. Our family was going through a really hard time and he made school a place where I wanted to be, where learning was exciting. From that point on, I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be able to make that difference for someone.
When I decided to pursue a graduate degree, I checked into a lot of different schools, but the people from Concordia just kept reaching out to me and answering my questions. I was confused as to what to do-I knew I needed to get my master’s degree; I didn’t know “in what.”
So I talked to Raymond at Concordia and he began answering all my questions. And then I spoke with Dean Mullins and those two people just were so crucial in my decision.
That it was online was also important. I’m a mom and at one point this past year, I had two jobs and we moved. There was so much going on and with this, I could do my family stuff, get the kids in bed, and then just do my homework. Sometimes that meant working till 2:00 in the morning but I was able to get it done. I wouldn’t have been able to do it in a classroom.
And everybody that I was in contact with from Concordia was just so caring. They really cared about me. I wasn’t just a number. I was always something special to the people that I was working with, and that made a big difference for me. It was hard. I put a lot of time and effort into it, but they were here with me the whole time.
What was the hardest part about earning this degree and what helped you through it?
During my last two classes, I faced a lot of different challenges, including being evacuated during the Eagle Creek fires. It was the first week of my research class. But we were sitting in a hotel. Students were supposed to start their first day of school, but we were displaced. I didn’t think I could do it. I spoke to my instructor, and let him know what was going on. He was so compassionate and said, “You can do this.” But he also told me if I can’t do this, we can figure something out. If you need to take a break, then you go ahead and take a break. And I was like, I’m so close. I’m like so close. I’ve got to keep doing this.
I communicated with him so much. I was trying to get my head wrapped around what was going on in my hometown. Am I going to lose my house? But then also trying to get my head wrapped around what I needed to do to stay focused. I got a lot of support.
I kept going because I had that support and because the communication was just always there. They were always checking in with me and encouraging me. My classmates encouraged me and said, “I’m praying for you. I’m thinking about you. How’s that going for you?” Just having the support all the way around was great. It was sort of like a second family. You know, just rooting for me.
Has your educational advancement benefited your students?
It’s renewing my focus on the importance of what I do. You don’t really think that in preschool, they’re going to read. A lot of people just think it’s all about play, and it’s obviously not. When I first started with this program, I had those misconceptions, too. They’re preschoolers, what are they going to do with a book? The program showed me that what I was doing was really important; how it made a difference for my students and that these techniques of introducing letters will actually stick and help them to read later.
I was a teacher before, but I’m so much more of a teacher now that I understand the “why” of what I learned.
Were Concordia’s faith-based values a factor in your experience?
I appreciate Concordia’s faith-based values, because I obviously was dealing with people that were interested in doing good things. And they valued their students and that made a huge difference for me throughout the process. They cared that I was going through a lot. I was not just a number. I had people there in my corner, praying for me.
And the scripture, on the pages–I needed that. When you’re struggling with school or you’re struggling with life, and you see something you feel was meant for you. The scripture was really something that was valuable to me and seemed to come at the right time.
What specific challenges does your school or district face and how have you tried to address them?
I work for Head Start, so obviously these children face challenges different to those of mainstream students. We cater to economically and environmentally struggling families. So we are there to provide support not only academically, but socially and emotionally. I’ve been able to integrate what I’m learning to reach out to kindergarten teachers and ask how I can I align what I’m doing with what they’re doing. How can I help these kids transition into kindergarten better?
I learned so much in my journey to get this degree. Tools I can use to help the kids be more prepared, even on top of what Head Start schools already do.
What keeps you motivated to continue working in education?
I want to inspire students to have a love for learning. And working with such young children, when the foundation is so important, is much more than just play. But play is a part of it. Everything that they’re doing is giving them life skills or giving counting skills or reading skills. And I think that foundation is vital. That’s what inspires me to continue.
Some day when your students look back on their time with you, what do you hope they remember?
Someday when my students look back on the time they’ve spent with me, I want them to know that I cared about them. That I cared about their education, but I also cared about them. I want them to feel like I inspired them to do their best and to love to learn and believe in themselves.
Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and an MEd from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She is now the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland.Tags: MEd, Q&A