Accelerated degree draws students

September 24, 2006

An accelerated degree was one of the main reasons several students in the New College Institute's first class gave for enrolling in the program.

Ten students showed up Friday afternoon for that class and, if they stay in the program, will walk away in about 15 months with a master's degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

Traditionally, it takes at least two years to earn a master's degree.

The 15-month schedule, as well as convenience, led many of those students to choose this program.

Katiia Greene of Danville, a sixth-grade language arts teacher at Gibon Middle School in Danville, said the accelerated program and class times fit her needs. Classes meet from 4 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every other Saturday year-round.

"I have a 1-year-old," she said, "and I can manage the job and my family on this schedule."

Lisa Kelly, also of Danville, teaches at W. Townes Lee Elementary School in that city and said the accelerated program attracted her.

"It is quick, not the two and a half years you traditionally would spend (getting a master's degree)," she said. "I'm hoping I'll have more time (for work and study) this way."

Convenience was the main reason Joel Johnson of Martinsville gave for his decision to enroll in the program, as well as his desire to seek an advanced degree.

"It cuts down on travel time and cuts down on time spent away from home," said Johnson, a teacher at Irisburg Elementary School in Henry County. "It (NCI) makes it much more convenient for working adults in this area."

Also, Johnson said he likes the "hands-on, face-to-face instruction" he will receive at NCI, rather than distance learning over the Internet that other programs may include.

And having an opportunity to get a master's level degree so close to home, he said, "gives me a chance to have a life outside school and work."

But for Kim Seamster of Danville, a teacher in Pittsylvania County Schools, it was "the accelerated pace" that attracted her to NCI.

"I can get this one (degree) in 15 months, not two and half years," she said. "The schedule also gives you ample time to work on class assignments. This is the first program I've seen that lasts only 15 months."

Seamster also had high praise for the facility, the former Shumate & Jessie building on Franklin Street that has been renovated to house NCI classrooms and offices.

"I really like it (the building) and it seems to have all the modern technology," she said. "I also like the nice, large classrooms with high ceilings."

For Danville's Jeannette Napier, who teaches at O.T. Bonner Middle School in Danville, the accelerated program was important and the timing of the first class worked out for her.

"It was fast-track, affordable and I was ready," she said. "It was the right timing."

Napier said she has taken night courses for teacher recertification, which is a state requirement for teachers, but the convenience of the NCI program is much better.

Students from out of town said they did not mind the drive to Martinsville either, because all the other factors made it worth the effort.


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