Why did Cynthia Lange join the MLC master's program?
“Nervous” and “neurotic” are words she uses for how she felt when she began the program in 2007. “Oh, wow! I was extremely nervous about starting—and at the same time thrilled. Earning a master’s degree had been a long-held personal and professional goal, but I was a neurotic mess because my computer skills were so limited. I didn’t know how I was going to manage an online class and projects at a graduate level.”
Thinking back to her first course, she remembers asking her daughter how to do something rather basic on the computer. “She was shocked I hadn’t learned that in school. You should have seen her face when I told her we only had typewriters when I was in school!
“So I overcame my fear of embarrassing myself and began asking for help,” she says. “The professors and my fellow classmates were always encouraging and helpful. In every class I learned so much more than was listed on the syllabus!”
Four years later, Cyn says the program was well worth the time and effort. She sees many benefits—for herself, for her K-2 students at St. Luke in Vassar, Michigan, and for her congregation.
“I’ve changed some of my instructional practices and refined others. I believe I have become a more effective and confident teacher. That’s not to say I know everything now. Hardly! I believe teachers are always a work in progress, striving to hone their craft. The more you learn, the more you realize you have a lot to learn!
Or try a course first, and join the program later.
Master's program courses are labeled "GRAD."
“It was a wonderful experience to be in class with other WELS teachers from around the globe,” she continues. “Their comments helped me work through challenges in new and different ways. The focus on the Word and communicating daily with fellow Christians was a great encouragement to me in my ministry. And it helped me overcome a feeling of isolation with which I sometimes struggle. I may be in a small school in a small town but I am not alone in my challenges, concerns, and triumphs.”
Cyn’s congregation was supportive as well. “My principal and fellow staff members acted as marvelous sounding boards and discussion partners when I was working through ideas for projects and papers or formulating class forum responses. Many congregation members and parents of my students also made encouraging comments when they found out I was going back to school. Our congregation has a continuing education fund, and as the budget allowed I was given help with my tuition.”
Congregational impact is especially important in a situation like Cyn’s. “It’s a challenge in our area to help parents understand the blessings of Christian education. Our school just finished its twentieth year of operation. Most of the parents of school-age children in our congregation went to the area public school and have that as their comfort zone. So it’s good for them to see firsthand that teachers are not complacent, but are concerned with further education and honing their skills in order to benefit the children in the school.”
Cyn says that MLC was an economical choice, and the online flexibility made it a practical choice as well. “That was one of the reasons I could back to school. It would have been very difficult to drive to a university. With the courses online, I could work whenever it fit into my schedule—late in the evening, early in the morning, on the weekend—whatever worked with my personal obligations and professional duties. You can go in and out of a virtual classroom as it suits you. It can travel with you too—anywhere there’s WiFi. I definitely believe most people can make the online master’s program work with their personal and professional life. I am so glad I did!”
As she finds more time now for her hobbies—reading, kayaking, target shooting, puttering in her flowerbeds, and singing songs from Rogers and Hammerstein musicals (from her girlhood, she’s known them all by heart!), she also encourages others to take the leap she did: “To others who are considering a master’s program, I’d say, first, it’s never too late to go back to school. Second, don't worry about what you don't know. Not only will you meet many helpful, encouraging people along the way, you will find and build strengths you never knew you had. And finally, as you make this journey, don't be surprised if the Lord leads you in directions about which you never dreamed.”