Cassville teachers hit the books
80 percent of district's teachers continuing educations
In the Cassville R-4 School District, it's not just the students who are learning each day.
According to Superintendent Richard Asbill, about 80 percent of the district's teachers are pursuing a masters, a second masters or a specialist degree, and many of them are taking classes for those degrees on-site.
Teachers and administrators at Cassville can take on-site classes offered by Southwest Baptist University, Drury University and Lindenwood University, among others, and even teachers from other nearby districts have come to Cassville to continue their educations.
One of the Cassville teachers pursing an advanced degree is Savannah Essary, second-grade teacher at Cassville Primary School. Essary is pursuing a masters of art in education, starting classes this fall and aiming to graduate in the summer of 2016.
"The opportunity to take the classes in Cassville has been a major influence on me to go ahead and get my masters," she said. "I have a young son, so traveling to another town for classes would take away even more time from him than I will already be taking. It is much more convenient this way."
Also taking classes at Cassville is Mandi Lyall, kindergarten teacher at the primary school, who received her master's in general education from Lindenwood University last year.
"It was a huge blessing to be able to take classes here at school and not have to travel," she said. "I always heard friends and co-workers say they had to go to Springfield or take classes online and neither of those sounded appealing. To be able to teach during the day and walk five minutes to class was wonderful."
Asbill is getting in on the education action as well, as he finished a doctorate in education administration leadership from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar in early April.
"My doctoral cohort was made up of a diverse group of principals, assistant superintendents and superintendents from southwest Missouri, so it created a good learning dynamic," he said. "It helped me look at needs, goals and priorities for students, so it helped me be a better learning leader and take steps to provide a better education system."
Asbill said the offering of courses on-site is a great way to keep teachers ahead of the learning curve, and offer something a bit unique in a rural area.
"This provides better access to programs that allow teachers to pursue degrees a little easier and in a more cost-effective manner," he said. "I hope the parents expect our teachers to be progressive in pursuing learning, and there's lots of opportunity because learning is a continual process."
Essary said one of the benefits to the on-site courses is the teachers' ability to work together and understand the challenges they each face.
"Having other teachers I work with taking the classes with me will definitely help me out," she said. "I will feel much more confident. We will be able to work on projects together and help each other with questions and motivation.
Lyall said the ability to work together was a great benefit to her in getting a master's.
"We were able to collaborate after school and ask each other questions throughout the week," she said. "It was great to get to know teachers from the other buildings as well, and grow closer to the teachers in our own buildings."
Essary said obtaining the masters will translate to more opportunity for improvement in her teaching methods, and she's excited to get going.
"Getting this degree will help me modify my teaching and implement new practices into action," she said. "I am a fairly new teacher, but when I was in college, I had no background knowledge of a real classroom."
Lyall said getting her degree has helped her learn new ways to teach, and she hopes the education will lead her to a promotion later in her career.
"I wanted to further my education because I love to learn about new techniques and strategies in education," she said. "I have always wanted to get my master's and thought one day down the road I could be a principal or college professor. I am glad I received the general education degree because it has been beneficial to my kindergarten teaching career."