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Martina Wagner-Ferris is a lifelong learner. She's constantly taking courses to enhance her teaching credentials and provide better learning environments for her students. In fact, she was hired for her first teaching job with the agreement that she would earn her English Language Learning (ELL) endorsement, which she did. That was five years ago. She has worked as an ELL educator ever since, but she wanted to earn her master's degree so that she could expand her career opportunities in ELL even further.
"Minnesota has a large migrant population so there's a real need for qualified ELL teachers," explained Wagner-Ferris. "Right now, I have very young children so I enjoy the convenience of classroom teaching. When my kids get older, I'd like to work in an administrative position in ELL or help educate my colleagues about teaching in an ELL setting. That's why I decided to pursue my master's degree."
Wagner-Ferris said she stumbled upon Western Governors University while researching online graduate programs. She was impressed by the flexibility of the competency-based model. Now two months into her M.A. in English Language Learning degree, she appreciates the fact that she can schedule school around her work and family obligations.
"It's great to be able to 'attend class' at 2:00 in the morning when the kids are in bed or log on during the day when I have some free time," she said.
Another benefit of the competency-based model, according to Wagner-Ferris, is the ability to use your past experience and education to accelerate your program.
"Because I already had my ELL endorsement, I was able to clear many of my requirements toward my master's degree. This will help me graduate faster and for less money. That's what is so nice about the competency-based model," she said.
Wagner-Ferris devotes about 20-25 hours per week to her studies and hopes to earn her degree within a year. It's possible, she said, with lots of hard work and help from her WGU faculty mentor. The WGU mentoring program is quite unique. Students team up with mentors, experts in their field of study, to create a personalized Degree Plan. Under the mentors' guidance, students follow this plan to successfully complete their degree programs.
"Online learning is so self-paced, you really need to get-and stay-motivated," said Wagner-Ferris. "That's where my mentor has been so helpful to me. She is my accountability partner and guide. When I get stressed or feel overwhelmed, she reminds me of the progress I've made. She gives me the encouragement I need to keep going when the going gets tough. But so far, my experience at WGU is working out really well."
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