When Rebecca Beaufeaux first stepped in the door at Saint Mary’s, a master’s degree was not her end goal.

Like most educators, Beaufeaux, an music and arts education teacher in Chippewa Falls, Wis., was required to accrue professional development hours. Because of a partnership between her school and the university, she was able to fulfill those requirements through Saint Mary’s. Shortly after she started her professional development, her school launched a program that allowed her to pursue a master’s degree in small increments.

But after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to online learning, Beaufeaux decided to pursue a master’s degree full time, which brought her to the M.A. in Education program.

“When we went virtual, I really realized what I do in the classroom affects so much more than just a grade, it affects the child in a whole way. Specifically, being in the fine arts, it really showed me how much behavioral formations were communicated through my specialties, and how that — really all of a sudden — was just cut out of the child’s life. And when we started to come back to school, we saw that in droves, that kids were unable to label and regulate those big emotions.

“So, by going to Saint Mary’s, I was able to learn more and have more tools in my toolbox to help those children restart that learning that had just been upset,” she said.

She was excited to apply and implement her newly acquired and applicable knowledge into her teaching immediately. From classroom interruptions to legal compliances, Beaufeaux says she was easily able to address the issue or need with skills she had attained at Saint Mary’s.

“Having those tools, like literally within hours, and being able to apply them to my current situation was mind-boggling to me, because in other disciplines, it gets kind of filed away for next time,” she said. “So to be able to do that, to know that my education was aimed at current educators, it was amazing.”

Along with applicable coursework, Beaufeaux was impressed with how involved her professors were in her educational experience, especially since her program was online.

“My professors were so present in my educational journey, and I don’t know that I’ve had that at other colleges or universities that I’ve attended,” she said. “ To know that that kind of care could be communicated through an online program, I wasn’t expecting it. And it was there, and it was high quality too.”

Beaufeux encourages anyone looking to advance their education and career to make the next step and enroll in a graduate program. Outside of the new skills she’s been able to put to use in her classroom, Beaufeaux says the program connected with other educators who helped her grow both personally and professionally.

“I really made some long-lasting relationships within my cohort and within my teaching team. I would be a lesser person if I didn’t know them. They have made me a better educator, and I am a better human after going through this program.”

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