Dana Cook, Emotional Support Teacher, Great Valley School District

Concurrent degrees in Science Education and Training Design and Development

I work as an elementary emotional support teacher to provide additional emotional support to young children with this special need. Currently, I am earning concurrent degrees in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on Science Education, and Instructional Systems, with a focus on Training, Design and Development. At first glance, you might wonder how these two degrees relate to each other and my background in special education. However, both degrees closely relate to my job. Often I directly apply my class projects at Penn State in my classroom the very next day.

I especially enjoyed the Science courses, because they provided me with hands-on opportunities and gave me great experiments to take back to my students. For example, through the food science course curriculum, I found the perfect way to introduce Science to my kindergarteners through third graders.

My Instructional Systems coursework helped me become more systematic in the way that I design my lessons. I also learned improved techniques for data collection, which serves as an extremely important tool for me to use in special education. Since I earned an undergraduate degree in special and elementary education, and my first graduate degree is in Curriculum and Instruction (Science), I chose the Instructional Systems program for its shift of focus toward adults. Because I often meet with the parents of the very young children whom I teach, the skills that I learned at Penn State Great Valley help me to effectively communicate with the parents, especially when I explain the data that I collected on their children.

With my busy schedule, I really enjoy the flexibility of the one-week summer courses, as well as the regular seven-week program. Although it is a struggle to balance the three courses that I currently take, especially with the demands of working and taking care of my new home, a well-organized day-planner makes it all possible—and absolutely worth it!

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