Although Michelle Stoller longed to become an educator, she didn’t think she ever would after having her son, Colby, and daughter, Allyson.
“I always wanted to be a teacher since I was a kid,” she said. “I had a wonderful high school teacher who inspired me.
“I had my kids young and didn’t think it was an option. I bit the bullet and went back to school at age 30. It’s what I was always meant to be.”
Stoller enrolled in the online Master of Education in Educational Leadership program at Eastern Washington University (EWU). She is on track to complete the program in March 2022.
“Honestly, the main reason I enrolled in the master’s program was the system; that’s how you move up the pay scale,” she said. “That was a large motivation for me, but I also wanted to diversify my skills and broaden my scope of knowledge.”
Stoller is in her sixth year as a fifth-grade teacher at Chinook Elementary School in her hometown of Vancouver, Washington. She enjoys earning a degree with the online format without missing a beat in her own classroom.
“It’s going pretty well,” she said. “I like that it’s relatively flexible. You have a little bit of time during the week to finish things on your schedule.
“I also like that the support staff is quick to respond any time I have a question or concern; the same thing goes for the faculty.”
Making it Count
Stoller graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Eastern Oregon University in 2016. She enrolled at EWU fewer than five years later.
“The main things that attracted me to the master’s degree program were the cost and the time to completion,” she said. “Then, a couple of people at our building had either recently graduated or were currently enrolled at EWU, so I had people I could ask about it.”
By doubling up on courses each semester, Stoller is working toward completing the degree program as soon as possible with the support of her kids and husband, Elijah.
“I am taking 10 credits while working full time,” she said. “I feel like I am getting a good bang for my buck. I would recommend the program to other people based on overall value, time spent, cost and the quality of the classes.”
So far, Methods of Educational Research is Stoller’s favorite course in the online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program curriculum. She gained significant knowledge and skills from the course that she might not have sought out otherwise.
“It was difficult, but I learned a lot through the process,” she said. “Not only did I learn about how to conduct research in a more effective way, but through practicing research, you have to read a lot of articles.”
Stoller also enjoys being a college student at the same time as her twenty-year-old son and hiking and camping with her family. Her daughter is a senior in high school.
“That’s a big motivator for me to set a good example and let them know that even if things are a challenge or you feel like it’s something you can’t do, we are usually more capable than we give ourselves credit for,” she said. “If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen.”
Labor of Love
Even though Stoller is working toward an educational leadership degree, she has no aspirations to become a principal or superintendent.
“I see a lot of value in a teacher mentorship role,” she said. “I have a little bit of interest in maybe being an athletic director.
“I already have my English as a Second Language and reading endorsements, so I wanted to diversify. The M.Ed. in Educational Leadership gives me some options.”
Speaking from experience with her career, Stoller believes that taking a chance by enrolling in the online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership is the first step to realizing a goal.
“Just start,” she said. “You can hem and haw and weigh the pros and cons forever. There’s always a good excuse to not start. Once you start, you’re on track to finish and make that step.”
Although financial affordability and career prospects are two of Stoller’s main reasons for continuing her higher education journey, she knows that the reward goes far beyond.
“I went into it thinking that I wanted to get higher pay, and if I learn something, that will be a bonus,” she said. “I am learning quite a bit more than I expected to in the program.”
Learn more about EWU’s online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program.