Within three years of graduating from Eastern Washington University with a Master of Education in Adult Education, Gar Springberry became an instructor in the same degree program.
"As an employee at EWU, I was enthusiastic about being an alum, too," he said. "I worked as an academic adviser, and the adult education option was a natural fit for both the work I was doing and for moving into the realm of exclusively being an instructor."
Springberry completed the master's program in 2014. He earned a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington, 27 years earlier.
"I was at a point in my family life where going back to school was feasible," he said. "My undergraduate degree prepared me for independent study, but the master's program helped provide structure and focus to my studies."
The M.Ed. in Adult Education also helped Springberry bridge the gap between his experience as a teacher and an adviser to the knowledge base he needed to take the next step in his career.
"Earning my degree enabled me to pursue my goal of being a university instructor," he said. "The adult education option, coupled with my K-12 teaching experience and background in academic advising, was the perfect preparation for my current work.
"I learned specific techniques for instruction, but I was also given the freedom to develop my own interpretation and application of the evidence-based teaching methods that I encountered in the coursework in the master's program."
That freedom included the ability to tailor the degree program to his specific needs and interests.
"More than the individual courses, I appreciated how every class allowed me to choose the content and emphasis of the major assignments and most of the minor assignments," he said. "I am interested in epistemology, identity formation, and methods for applying theory in academic settings. All of the classes in the major encouraged me to pursue these topics as part of the assigned coursework."
Path to Education
Springberry grew up in Michigan. He made his way to Seattle in 1982 after a stint in the United States Air Force. He was 23 years old when he arrived in the Pacific Northwest.
"I liked Seattle and settled there," he said. "I got my residency and went to Evergreen State College."
Once he started work in the education field, Springberry was hooked. The master's degree program not only allowed him to achieve his career goal, it also gave him some amazing insight.
"To be an adult learner studying adult education provides a rare opportunity for both learning and development," Springberry said. "This degree provides the practical tools of instruction with a deep understanding of the transformational process that is the essence of adult education."
Now that he has some experience as an instructor in the education department under his belt, Springberry knows he made the right decision to earn a master's degree at EWU.
"I'm in my tenth quarter as a teacher," he said. "I started teaching a couple of classes within three years of starting the program. Then, I went to the education department on the undergraduate side. Teaching is what I want to do for sure. I'll do this in some capacity for the duration."
Springberry has already made an impact as an instructor in the M.Ed. in Adult Education program. Berenice Emehiser, a 2016 graduate of the program, thoroughly enjoyed the EDUC 538: Media Literacy for Teachers course Springberry taught.
"That was one of the best classes," Emehiser said. "At first, I thought, 'Oh, wow, I'll learn how to use the technology.' His course was basically how to do effective presentations. He did a fantastic job teaching it. Even things that seemed minor were all related to the overall theme of what he was trying to teach. It was really impressive."
The Perfect Space
Springberry, who enjoys walking, working on his cars and building furniture, had a lot of encouragement as he completed the EWU M.Ed. in Adult Education degree program he started in 2012.
"My friends and family were very supportive," he said. "I finished the degree in seven quarters while working full-time. I could not have done it without the support of my employer and family. I sat with two of my classmates at graduation. One of my favorite instructors put on my hood. It was a high point and a fitting culmination to my studies."
In addition to the perspective Springberry has as both an instructor and recent graduate of the program, he also learned some keys to success for students returning to higher education after a long period of time.
"Spend a couple of months acclimating to the tasks and schedule of being back in school," he said. "Find the time in your schedule that you intend to use for your studies. Then, actually use that time to do research on topics that interest you.
"Use the time to practice your critical reading, writing, presenting and technology-based skills before you need them. Ask yourself what it means to be a scholar, student and classmate. Before you start a course, be able to explain how you intend to facilitate your learning and the learning of your instructors and classmates."Learn about the EWU online M.Ed. in Adult Education program.
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