A teacher who completed her Master of Arts in American History and Government (MAHG) last fall saw a professional door open for her this May. Applying to teach as an instructor in political science at a community college, Michelle Check felt “confident going into the interview because of Ashland and the MAHG program.” When the department chair drew her into an in-depth discussion of American politics, Check found herself responding with ease.
“He gave me a list of five questions on American government, commenting that each addressed a complicated subject, and asked me to talk about one of them. I said, ‘I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I feel confident I can address all of those questions.’ I was thinking, ‘I wish the faculty in the MAHG program could see me now!’”
Before the end of the day, Check was offered the position at Mt. San Jacinto Community College in San Jacinto, California. Check will be impacting the education of even more students now as she will teach two sections of political science this fall while continuing to work at Nuview Bridge Early College High School, a charter school in Nuevo, California.
A young teacher just entering her sixth year, Check felt she needed greater content depth: “My undergrad degree was in Social and Behavioral Science, so I lacked detailed knowledge of history.” She also realized that “an MA in history would open up more job opportunities. Some of my colleagues have gotten MAs in education which allow them to move up the pay scale, but other than that, it’s just a piece of paper. I wanted a degree that would be meaningful.”
Check liked the design of Ashland’s program, based on primary sources and offering careful analysis of the founding period. Attending her first seminar, Check was “amazed at the wealth of knowledge of the instructors” and fascinated by questions they posed. “I was able to form my own opinion about the material instead of having a view imposed on me. There was always a lot of discussion back and forth.”
Each summer’s coursework, Check said, made her “a much better teacher. Before, if a student asked a question, I would only be able to give a basic, surface-level response. But now I can give a detailed response, and I can direct students to sources where they can further investigate for themselves.”
The Masters degree also allows Check, she said, “to model continuing education to my students” at Nuview—economically and socially disadvantaged adolescents who are likely to be the first in their families to attend college. Check now straddles the two worlds that her students at Nuview are being helped to navigate. The “dual enrollment” school helps students enroll at the community college level while completing high school requirements. This model for enhancing and accelerating student progress has begun to be offered in many school districts around the country. Often, teachers who hold Masters degrees teach courses qualifying for college credit on the high school campus itself. Ashland’s MAHG program prepares teachers for these innovative programs, while equipping them to communicate a thorough knowledge of American history and its unique democracy.