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SOE master’s degree alumnae shine in Johnston school district

We caught up with two outstanding alumnae of the Drake University School of Education graduate programs to learn about how they continue to use tools from their Drake education to create innovative, forward-looking classrooms.

Yolanda Christiansen and Jeanine Lynch, both currently teaching in the Johnston school district, have been recognized for their work while in graduate school and also in their own classrooms.

Christiansen, a seventh grade math and science teacher at Summit Middle School, graduated in December 2010 with a Master of Science in Special Education. She received an Outstanding Graduate Student award that same year.

Yolanda Christiansen

Christiansen says her graduate work has helped her better appreciate some already familiar education tools, such as assessment of test scores and student learning habits.

“As a young teacher, I didn’t understand the core role of assessment and how to utilize data to modify instruction,” Christiansen said. “After completing my program at Drake, I feel confident in the fact that I can motivate students and teach them how to challenge themselves. I have learned to better understand and utilize these assessment tools.”

Christiansen began her teaching career in 1998. She taught at-risk sixth-eighth graders in Cedar Rapids, junior high special education in Kentucky, eighth grade math and language arts, and elementary special education before her current position as a math and science teacher.

“I earned my master’s degree further in my teaching career than most,” she said. “I came into the program with diverse experiences which helped me understand most of the concepts and strategies presented in class. This only enhanced my graduate school experience.”

One of the challenges the graduate students face as both full-time teachers and students is balancing obligations. Christiansen felt the graduate program at Drake specifically structured their programs to help graduate students manage the balance between schoolwork, career, family and daily tasks.

“All the professors were very willing to help students manage conflicts such as parent teacher conferences,” she said. “They would create online class opportunities or assignments to solve some of the time conflicts. Drake made it easier for us to excel both in our careers and in our roles as students.”

Jeanine Lynch, courtesy of Des Moines Register

Jeanine Lynch, a second grade teacher at Lawson Elementary in Johnston, graduated in 1988 with a Master of Science in education in the Effective Teaching, Learning and Leadership program. She also received the Outstanding Alumna award for her thesis work on elementary students and creative writing.

“I think a master’s degree is a critical step for all educators,” Lynch said.  “We must be life long learners.  We must stay current and we must stay informed of what are best practices for our students

Lynch is one of three recipients recently highlighted in The Des Moines Register as this year’s Johnston Educators of the year award winners.

Lynch went through the Effective Teaching program in its first year.

“In a way, we were guinea pigs working through how the program could be the most effective,” she said. “We were given the  freedom to make choices, to draw our own pathways in our research. It was scary and it was exciting. I think that helped me realize how important choices and ownership are in learning even for our youngest students.”