Although Adolph Muller is a third-grade teacher, he is enrolled in the Master of Education – Adult Education online program at Eastern Washington University.
"I have always had a phobia about speaking to adults," he said. "When EWU came to our school and I saw the adult education master's degree program, I thought, 'What a great way to get rid of that fear.'
"I love working with kids, and I feel a lot more comfortable with them. I am hoping that I will grow and get out of that fear with this degree."
Muller is also looking at the big picture because he realizes that he will likely move on from teaching young children. After he graduates in December 2020, he hopes to put his degree into action by teaching community college courses in Yakima Valley, Washington, where he lives.
"There are not a lot of male teachers where I work," he said. "A lot of kids miss that male role model. I love my job and love my kids, but I will get older and won't have the energy to work with kids. Now, I can get that adult education."
The online format was the only way Muller could earn a master's degree and maintain his busy life. His mother, Sandra, was recently diagnosed with cancer. Plus, he and his significant other, Brenda, had their first child, Milo, in May 2019.
"I have had a great experience with the online program," he said. "My first professor, Dr. Ann Van Wig, was a sweetheart. I had a rough start getting to know the situation, but she spent a good amount of time on the phone with me, showing me where to click, where to submit and how to post questions. She has been the best professor I have experienced, by far."
Muller was born in Nicaragua and moved to Southern California as a young child in the 1980s after his family was granted political asylum from the Iran-Contra scandal. His father, Gerry, and mother moved to Washington in 1999.
"They were able to buy their home," he said. "My mom has her own beauty shop. They are doing very well for a family from a developing country. They are blessed."
After starting a bachelor's degree program in elementary education at California State University Los Angeles, Muller had some life changes and moved to Washington to be near his family. He completed the degree online at Grand Canyon University in 2015.
"I tell people who may not be familiar with biblical stories that I consider myself a prodigal son who came home with his tail between his legs and is doing things a lot different now that he's older and a lot more rational," he said. "I look at life from a different perspective, rather than a young, rebellious type of way. My family and friends are super excited and supportive."
An elective Muller took — EDUC 581: The Science of Early Childhood Development: Risk and Resilience — is his favorite master's course so far.
"I love the neuroscience part of the class, which I am taking now," he said. "It has to do with the brain development and how children are affected by the misuse of words and communication, how that gap begins to widen. Having my first child, I am understanding the class and the brain a little bit more and applying it to my studies and to real life."
In fact, Muller has seen a lot of applicability to his job from the information he is learning in all of the master's degree curriculum.
"I can see a lot more connections to the way the kids act and how they talk," he said. "You can tell the kids who have had a richer vocabulary from infancy and the ones who have not. A lot of the studies make that more apparent when you make the visual connections."
As Muller works toward completing a graduate degree, he is starting to see a difference in how he communicates and works with adults.
"I had a lot of colleagues getting their master's degrees in administration who try to convince me to, as well," he said. "I said, 'No. I don't like working with adults. I don't want to get a master's just to get a master's degree.'
"Down the line, I would like to get a doctoral degree and study how the human adult mind works compared to how a young mind works. We have a couple of local community colleges that would probably give me an opportunity to teach on evenings and weekends. Once I get there, we'll figure that out."
Now that Muller is halfway through the online M.Ed. – Adult Education program, he knows that time management is the biggest key to success.
"Even though the school works around your time, you can't forget about it," he said. "You get to Sunday and say, 'Oh, I have things to turn in and it's almost midnight.' Because you are not there in a classroom setting, you have to do things mostly on your own.
"I would tell people to be cautious about managing their time, and be aware that even though you are not going to school physically, you have to be on top of things. It depends on you and when you lock in. Stay on top of it."
Muller hopes to complete the EWU experience by walking the graduation stage at commencement and putting the finishing touches on the transition from prodigal son to man with a plan.
"I would love to attend," he said. "I have never had the chance to do the cap and gown outside of getting my associate degree. I hope I can go.
"I would really enjoy being able to walk this time around. I was introduced to Eastern through some friends who would take me to football games. This is a great school."
Learn more about the EWU online M.Ed. – Adult Education program.
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