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Recent Master of Education graduate, Lisa found balance with teaching and taking classes while making her family investment a priority. Enjoy her story about their fun family camping traditions and strategies for adult learning. 

Camping Queen
Our camping tradition is really rooted in my own childhood experiences. After my parents divorced, my dad joined a group called Parents without Partners (PWP), and they led a lot of family events and activities. One of the events was a family weekend camping trip. My dad bought a tent and some sleeping bags and away we went. Some of my most favorite memories from my childhood are from those camping times with my dad and siblings. Eventually, we upgraded to a pop-up camper. It was a cost efficient vacation for our family of 4 children, and we loved traveling to different camping spots!

Years later, actually, the year I graduated from NWC in 2005 with my undergrad, my husband and I bought a tent, supplies, and began our own tradition. It was just the two of us then. The year after our son was born we upgraded to a pop-up camper, and again to a travel trailer the year I decided to pursue my masters. Oh, the luxuries of camping with a travel trailer AND A/C!  It has been a favorite pastime of my family.

Usually, camping is a full extended family experience (my parents, my sisters and their family, and cousins too). I am the “camping queen” to all of them. My sister even bought me a shirt and a tiara to go with it. We plan menus for the whole weekend to help cut down on cost for each family and then we cook and eat as a big family. My husband is the “camp chef” and does an awesome job cooking over an open fire.

Enjoying Summer and Taking Classes
Taking summer courses and enjoying the summer has definitely been possible. I either stayed up late during the week to have my coursework completed before we went camping or used my mobile hotspot to log in at the campground. I also did a lot of work when my son took part in summer programs too. I would drop him off and then go find a place to do coursework until it was time to pick him up.  It makes a big difference that I have summer vacation from teaching. I would go to his ballgames and then come home and do homework when the family was in bed. I also downloaded the Blackboard app on my smartphone, so in route to events, I could respond to discussions. 

Balance and Efficiency  
At times it has been a struggle to find balance while pursuing my master’s degree. I only have one child; I can’t imagine how the juggling is with more than one.  The first semester was the hardest find a routine and balance. Once I had a routine and planned what I was going to do each day then it became a bit easier.  I have a certain task I try to do each day and then use the weekends to get most things finished. I also give myself one day a week off from any coursework. Thursdays are my day to get home from work and I do not even look at my courses. I give myself permission to veg and watch my TV shows. I believe that is important. Many times, I have stayed up after my family has gone to bed to finish classwork. There are also breaks between semester sessions that are a blessing. They give us family time to come back together and refresh. We try to plan ahead for major events so I can get my work started earlier. The professors are always willing to work with you. I am extremely grateful for their understanding on the importance of time with family.

A Support System is Key
Working toward your master’s isn’t an easy endeavor to take on without the support of family and friends. It is important to have a network of people you can rely on and help when things get overwhelming. My husband has really had to step up helping with meals, laundry, and taking our son on father/son outings so I could have time to work quietly.  I heard from many friends and colleagues who said they had regretted not pursuing their master’s degree. I didn’t want to look back on my own life and wonder “what if.”  So I say, “just do it!”

Lisa Farmer M.Ed student

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The 2017 Northwestern College commencement ceremony was certainly one for the archives. For the first time since 1996, Master of Educations students walked across the graduation stage. Although preceded by two graduate cohorts, these students collectively marked Northwestern history as the first Master’s students to complete their advanced degree entirely online. Forty-six Master of Education students and four RN to BSN program graduates earning their Bachelors of Science in Nursing completed their Northwestern degrees online this year. As online programs increasingly grow in availability and popularity, Northwestern seeks to serve working professionals with quality continuing education opportunities rooted in faith and community.

Building online programs that encourage working students to develop relationships with fellow students and faculty without meeting face-to-face or even online at the same time is not an easy task. It takes a common purpose and a lot of dedication for students and faculty to have the best experience. In observing the commencement ceremony and reception, it was obvious how impactful these online programs are in the lives of both students and staff. Their touch points had remained on either side of computer screens until the celebration, which allowed faculty to finally meet their student’s newborn or hug their student who battled and beat heart surgery. For all – it was more than celebrating academic accomplishments but acknowledging life’s journey.

“We [the Graduate School and Adult Learning faculty and staff] were ecstatic to meet the graduates who attended graduation. The online environment at NWC allows faculty to get to know these students so personally, however, the opportunity to give them a hug and see their joy in being hooded was unforgettable. In addition, the reception after the ceremony was an awesome time to spend with our graduates and their families while honoring their accomplishment, “said Master of Education Director Sara Waring-Tiedeman.

As President Greg Christy encourages all graduates, “Northwestern has been part of God’s will for your life, and I pray what you learned here enables you to eagerly and skillfully respond to God’s call in your work, faith and family life.” Northwestern College is now an influence for student eighteen years of age or fifty-five, but regardless empowering them to follow Christ and pursue God’s redeeming work in the world.

 Northwestern College Master of Education graduates

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For two years, I spent my spring break serving on a Spring Service Project working with a ministry called Hope for Opelousas. This ministry works with students hailing from St. Landry’s Parish, the poorest school district in the state.

My first year, I walked into Opelousas Junior High, wide-eyed and ready to change the world. What I didn’t realize was how complicated building relationships would be. I spent the week working with students, tutoring HFO kids, and connecting with members of the community. But when I left, I still felt unsure. I didn’t know whether I’d made my impact or helped anyone. In fact, it had felt as though the people of Louisiana had changed me more than I had changed them.

Fast forward to the spring of my junior year. After not feeling as though I had done enough, I decided to sign up to return to Opelousas a second year. This year, I knew I’d make a difference. After joining together with my team of 19 other individuals, I was awestruck by the wonderful people I’d be embarking on this journey with. But when we got down to Opelousas a second time, I realized I wasn’t there to change the world. I was there just to show I care and love people deeply.

 I spent three days serving in Opelousas Junior High once again, walking alongside a new teacher who had just finished her training and walked into a messy classroom of students mid-year. She was worn down from trying to take control of a group of students she’d never worked with before. However, the characteristic I kept seeing shine through this teacher was her love and deep desire to help these students.

The days I wasn’t serving in the school, I helped scrape and prime a house to be painted. We also cleaned out a storage area for a local organization that offered extracurricular activities for students in the area. While standing around and cleaning all day may not sound like a treat, spending time with the wonderful people of Opelousas and Northwestern certainly was, and seeing the excitement of everyone as the house was closer to completion definitely made the days worth it.

Perhaps the best part of the whole experience was serving a student named Landon. Landon was a 7 th grader who attended one of my classes at Opelousas Junior High. After school, I had the opportunity to work alongside him and tutor him through HFO. Watching this student work to the best of his abilities to make his mother proud was phenomenal.

It was here that I learned that I wasn’t there to change peoples’ lives. Instead, I was there to love, and that was enough. After all, just like Hope for Opelousas’ mission statement says, “Love changes everything.”


Nicole Montgomery

Meet the Author

Nicole is an English Teaching major at Northwestern. She serves as the Blog Coordinator and writing tutor for the Graduate School and Adult Learning. As a writing tutor, she is already preparing for her teaching career. Nicole will graduate May 2017 and serve as the 10th grade english teacher at MOC-FV in Orange City.

Nicole also has a passion for social justice and young adult literature.