Brenda Gardea is a recent graduate of our online Master of Arts in Literacy program. Having earned a master’s degree and reading specialist certification, she now serves as a reading interventionist on her campus, where she works with students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties.  

The knowledge and credentials earned in our graduate program can help educators advance their careers and reach a broader range of students, as Gardea has. We felt it was important to hear her story, and she was kind enough to share it. Her experiences prior to and after joining our literacy program show what can be accomplished when an educator is devoted to their students and their own education.  

While working as a paraprofessional and pursuing her bachelor’s degree and teaching certification, Gardea was exposed to students who struggled with reading and writing. “I saw how much dedication an educator had to have in order to reach all students,” she said. “Unfortunately, there are many more students that struggle, and having more staff that are able to help them overcome their barriers is extremely important.”  

Gardea’s reasons for pursuing a career in literacy also stem from witnessing her younger brother encounter reading difficulties. “When he was in kindergarten, his teacher expressed her concern in his low performance in literacy,” she said. “He moved on to first grade, where again, he struggled and had to be retained … However, he had some wonderful teachers who helped him overcome his difficulties, and when he finally became a reader, it was amazing!” This experience helped shape Gardea into the educator she is today and influenced her decision to pursue a master’s degree.  

“I am determined to help as many students as possible overcome their difficulties,” said Gardea, “and I knew that earning a master’s degree would help me achieve this goal.” 

Having already earned her bachelor’s degree at The University of Texas Permian Basin, Gardea knew that our university could accommodate her needs. “I had already met some wonderful professors here,” said Gardea, “and knew that I would get the help I needed in order to earn my degree.” The online MA in literacy program is taught by Literacy Program Coordinator Tara Wilson, EdD, and Assistant Professor Shelly Landreth, EdD. Together, they provide students with the support they need to succeed in an online learning environment.  

Gardea particularly enjoyed two of our practicum courses: Vocabulary and Spelling Practicum and Reading Diagnosis Practicum. “For both courses,” she said, “I tutored students, created intervention lessons to meet their specific needs using various types of assessments, and learned how to write detailed reports on the specifics of the intervention and outcome.” The majority of our literacy courses are online and asynchronous. However, graduate students also participate in practicum courses where they are able to apply reading theory in a real-world setting while meeting regularly with their university supervisor. “I enjoyed meeting with my advisor and feel that I wouldn’t have been successful if it weren’t for her help,” said Gardea.  

“As soon as I graduated, I received the promotion to reading interventionist and am now able to work exclusively with the students who are dyslexic or at risk,” Gardea added. As a reading interventionist, Gardea meets regularly with groups of dyslexic students for intervention and creates detailed interventions to ensure that the needs of students who are not dyslexic are also met. Our online literacy program, according to Gardea, helped her become more knowledgeable of how best to help students. “It has given me more confidence in knowing that I am doing the right thing to help them grow in their literacy skills,” she said.  

“All general education teachers will encounter students in their classrooms who struggle with reading,” explained Gardea, “and this program would definitely better prepare them to adequately serve those students.” Through our online program, educators learn how best to serve students with literacy difficulties, whether that entails implementing intervention strategies; providing recommendations to administrators; or collaborating with teachers, psychologists, and parents. “I would recommend this program to all educators who teach reading,” encouraged Gardea. 

“I believe that reading is the most important academic skill that we learn as humans,” asserted Gardea. “Literacy plays a part in everything we do in life; it is not just a part of academics.” If you share in the belief that literacy plays a pivotal role in every facet of a student’s life, apply to our online Master of Arts in Literacy program. Every student deserves to know what it feels like to be lost in a book. Help them discover their passion for reading by enrolling in our online literacy program and earning your reading specialist certification.