When Eastern Michigan University (EMU) alumna Alissa Lane knew the time was right to return to college for an advanced degree, she did her due diligence before selecting a school.

“I looked at several programs at other universities,” she said. “I decided that Eastern Michigan was the best for me because of how affordable it is. It was also the fastest I could complete the degree, saving me time and money.”

Lane is on track to complete EMU’s online Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching in Special Education program in April 2023. Her program concentration is Emotional Impairment, which includes three specialized courses.

“I spent a few years teaching and decided I had a lot of students who needed emotional support, so I thought I would go back, get my degree and add that endorsement,” she said.

As a full-time teacher at Orchard View Schools in Muskegon, Michigan, Lane appreciates the program’s flexibility, which allows her to fit school around her busy schedule.

“I like doing the degree fully online,” she said. “Some days, when I am done teaching, it’s too much. I have the option to not go online that day and do schoolwork. It gives me the time to finish up on my time.

“I also did a couple of online courses in my undergraduate program, so I had some experience and knew what to expect in the master’s degree program.”

Eagle Eye

While growing up in Muskegon, Lane knew what she wanted to do with the rest of her life and where she wanted to devote her time.

“I have always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I decided in high school that I wanted to do the special education piece after I volunteered in a classroom. I fell in love with it. I like to advocate for inclusion.”

Lane completed a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a specialization in special education from EMU in April 2019. Two years later, she returned for her master’s degree.

“It’s important to have some experience in the classroom before going back to school,” she said. “If you don’t have that, I would wait a bit before starting the master’s program.

“Time management and reaching out to professors and classmates so they can help you is also important. The professors are good about getting back to me quickly any time I have a question for them.”

So far, Programming, Methods and Curriculum for Elementary Students with Emotional Impairment, taught by Jacquie Pruder St. Antoine, is Lane’s favorite course in the curriculum.

“We learned about different theories,” she said. “She was a great professor who got us thinking and gave us flexibility and creativity to learn based on where we are teaching and our own experiences. I liked that piece of the course.”

Lane said most of the information she has learned in the program applies to her current role.

“I am on some teams at my school,” she said. “I use some of what I learned in my classes to benefit my school. It’s cool that I can double-dip what I am learning with those teams.”

Back in the Nest

Although Lane has already participated in one EMU commencement ceremony, she plans to be there for another one next year — especially since she will be the first person in her family to earn a master’s degree.

“If I am going to earn a master’s degree, I need to reward myself by walking on the graduation stage when I am finished,” she said. “My family and friends are excited and supportive of me going back to school.”

Lane, who enjoys hiking and kayaking with her dog, Korra, in her free time, believes that earning a master’s degree will pay dividends for the remainder of her education career.

“Right now, I am a resource room teacher, which I enjoy,” she said. “I also like that if I feel like I am done with the classroom, I have options.

“For now, I am planning to stay where I am, but it’s nice to know that I am prepared when I am ready to move forward.”

Now that she is back at EMU, Lane is happy the research she did before returning to school pointed to her coming home.

“It’s nice to be back at Eastern,” she said. “So far, I have got good value out of the Master of Arts in Teaching Special Education program. I also believe that having this degree will open some career opportunities for me down the road.”

Learn more about EMU’s online M.A. in Teaching in Special Education program.