We are happy to announce SVVSD and the University of Northern Colorado are teaming up to host a UNC cohort of their Master’s of Literacy program here in SVVSD. The five-semester program will be starting Fall 2018. To provide more information, UNC Program and Enrollment Manager Jon Shaw sat down to interview Program Coordinator Dr. Jim Erekson. Their interview is below. Space for this cohort, so sign up not. More information can be found on the program page here.
Interview with Jon Shaw and Dr. Jim Erekson
Shaw: What is UNC’s MA in Literacy?
Erekson: It is an education master’s program designed primarily for teachers who are looking for additional expertise in classroom literacy. Most of our graduates continue to be classroom teachers and use their knowledge in the classroom. However, this degree also qualifies teachers for the Reading Teacher endorsement that means graduates are also qualified to teach literacy intervention at the building level.
Shaw: Who enrolls for the program?
Erekson: It is a K-12 endorsement, so although elementary teachers we do have some middle and high school teachers enroll in the program. Special education teachers, Culturally & Linguistically Diverse teachers, and school librarians all have benefitted from this program—even people who already have a master’s degree enroll to earn this specialization!
The people who usually enroll want to know how to help more kids at their school succeed with literacy—they want to be part of the solution. Even teachers who have only been teaching for a year or two understand the importance of literacy and how it contributes to a child’s overall success in school.
Shaw: What kinds of courses are in the program?
Erekson: One of the main bonuses is that our program does not require a generalist core you have to take before the literacy classes’ start. It is 30 solid credits in literacy taught by faculty members with doctoral degrees specializing in Literacy. We have courses in elementary literacy, content literacy, literacy assessment, and writing. We focus on best practice, which means that when we dig into research and theory, it is always to discover and practice what to do in the K-12 classroom. We have a great mix of the practical how-to, and the theoretical to help teachers know why so they can make their own decisions.
Shaw: The faculty recently updated the program. What kinds of changes did you make?
Erekson: The program is now 30 credit hours instead of 33. This means not only is the program less expensive overall, but because the program now takes only five semesters instead of six—fall spring summer fall spring.
Shaw: What kinds of updates did you make to the courses?
Erekson: We added a couple of key courses. Our course on family & community literacy focuses on what teachers need to know about home and family literacy, and what kinds of programs exist in the community to support both families and schools. That course is also largely about oral language, and what teachers can do to even out the differences students bring to school from a variety of backgrounds. The second course we added is one on New Literacies. Teachers may feel behind as the literacy landscape becomes increasingly entwined with the audio and visual literacies we all experience digitally. Nevertheless, there is already a great body of practical research on teaching and learning with multi-modal literacies. This keeps us current with the field nationally, and offers key knowledge teachers need right now.
Shaw: Why offer a cohort at St Vrain?
Erekson: We did this a few years ago in the district and it was such a benefit to have a whole group of people sharing similar experiences, similar professional development agendas, and similar district vision and goals. We have been lucky to partner with Zac Chase in district literacy curriculum to find ways to make this program something the district values as well as helping teachers with their own goals. There is unity in a group when teachers from the same district decide to pursue a master’s degree in the same specialization. People develop a vision for the career and broaden their sense for who their colleagues are locally.
Shaw: So does the district partnership mean the classes will be in Longmont?
Erekson: Yes, absolutely. Zac Chase is working with us and we will teach at sites in St Vrain district. However, most of our courses are hybrid-online delivery. This means we save those face-to-face meetings in Longmont for content we really want to have people in the same room for demonstration & practice, discussions & other group projects. For most of the courses, this means two weekends (Friday night and then Saturday) of face-to-face, with the rest online. This is another reason we are partnering with St Vrain—as the national market for masters programs shifts toward online only, with a local partnership like this we can afford to preserve some of the great value of face-to-face interactions while making the best use of online course tools. Our past program completers have often said they prefer learning face to face, but they are also okay with learning the ins and outs of an online course system. We think we have a great balance and the added benefit of partnership with Zac and the curriculum office. They see this as a valuable academic and professional development opportunity.
Program Page Hyperlink:
Program & Enrollment Manager:
Dr. Jim Erekson