We had the pleasure of speaking with Yvonne Wood, a teacher and graduate of our online Master of Arts in Literacy program. Wood is the ideal candidate to discuss her experience in our online program, having used the knowledge and skills she gained in our virtual classroom to make a direct, positive impact on struggling readers in her role as a seventh and eighth grade teacher. 

Wood’s passion for helping students, especially those with difficulty reading or writing, began when she witnessed the effects of illiteracy firsthand. Neither of Wood’s parents completed their secondary education. Her mother would drop out of high school to teach reading to her father, and when Wood’s grandmother needed a letter written, it was a young Yvonne she’d turn to.  

Wood’s passion for literacy would lead her to enroll in our MA in literacy program. “I was teaching 6th grade social studies and ELAR [English Language Arts and Reading] when I learned that many middle school students struggled to read,” Wood began. “Initially, I intended to teach social studies, but I reconsidered and have no regrets.”  

Wood’s concerns were well founded. As reported in the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 34% of fourth grade students scored lower than the NAEP Basic, indicating that over a third of our nation’s fourth graders lack fundamental literacy skills. Literacy, in addition to predicting academic success, introduces students to new ideas, lessons, and perspectives. It can ignite a love of learning that remains with students for the rest of their lives, especially if their parents and teachers are there to cultivate their reading habits and offer words of encouragement. 

Through our 36-credit online program, Wood learned how to collaborate with educators, psychologists, and parents to develop needs-based reading programs. She also developed the skills needed to assess reading strengths and create intervention plans for at-risk students. Wood’s instruction went beyond the theoretical in our course Practicum in Reading, where she was given the opportunity to apply reading theory in a real-world setting while meeting regularly with a University supervisor. According to Wood, her supervisor provided much-needed criticism that strengthened her craft.  

What about UT Permian Basin and our online program appealed the most to Wood? In a word, convenience. “The online learning format was definitely convenient for my personal needs as it gave me a flexible schedule,” said Wood. With its online format and asynchronous elements, our program was flexible enough to allow Wood to continue working while pursuing her degree and Texas Education Agency (TEA)’s reading specialist certification (which she passed on the first try). Like Wood, many of our graduate students prefer to remain in the classroom rather than choose between their personal and professional responsibilities.   

Our online program enables educators to pursue their passion effectively and efficiently. “I was surprised by how soon I finished the program,” noted Wood. Our 36-credit master’s degree program can be completed in less than two years, and is conveniently aligned with TEA’s reading specialist certification. Streamlined and empowering, our program allows graduates to hit the ground running in the education field, as Wood has.  

We’re proud to say that Wood remained at UT Permian Basin and now teaches ELAR to her seventh and eighth grade students at the STEM Academy. As teacher and grade-level team lead, her responsibilities include mentorship, reading intervention, professional development, and creative lesson plan development. “This is my fifth year teaching reading,” Wood explained, “and I am humble [but] confident in coordinating with educators and parents in developing reading interventions or programs.”  

Wood attributes part of her success, and the success of her students, to the education she received at UT Permian Basin. “Achieving a master’s degree early in my [teaching] career has [contributed] to many of my students mastering state assessment,” explains Wood. “I am happy to say that a number of my students, who have never passed a state assessment, achieve mastery before entering high school.” This is the ultimate goal of our master’s degree program: to help educators in their mission to bring literacy to those who need it most. We wish Wood’s students all the luck in the world as they continue their education; however, they might not need it. After all, they had a great teacher.   

UT Permian Basin’s online master’s degree program empowers educators with the ability to teach a broad spectrum of students, assess reading strengths, and create intervention plans for at-risk students. We encourage Texas educators who share Wood’s passion for literacy to apply to our online Master of Arts in Literacy program. Coupled with a reading specialist certificate, a master’s degree is powerful tool for career advancement and closing the reading gap. “The [master’s degree] program opens multiple doors of opportunity,” encourages Wood. “All one has to do is have the desire to challenge themselves.”