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Mother/Daughter Teachers Earn Degrees Together

121503graduation51_dl.jpgBOONE–Wilkes County teachers Sharon Warren and Angela Roten share more than family ties. The mother/daughter pair celebrated graduation Saturday, Dec. 13, after taking every class together toward their master of arts degrees in middle grades education.

They completed their degrees through Appalachian State University’s off-campus program at Wilkes Community College.

“If we weren’t in the program together, we wouldn’t have finished. We encouraged each other and kept going, class by class,” says Warren, a fifth grade teacher at Millers Creek Elementary School.

Warren and Roten completed the program in two and a half years, taking two or three classes a semester while teaching full time.

“People say it’s weird that I’ve gone to school with my mom, but we have a really good relationship,” says daughter Angela, who teaches eighth grade at West Wilkes Middle School.

Both women earned their undergraduate degrees at Appalachian, too. Warren was a teacher’s assistant for 17 years before earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Appalachian in 1996. Roten finished her bachelor’s in middle grades education from Appalachian in 1998. While they did not take classes together back then, they did form a special bond.

“My freshman year, when Mom was in town each week for her class, we’d get together for dinner. It was neat having a parent who understood what college was like,” Roten says.

Warren says they chose to pursue their master’s degrees because they each wanted to enhance her professionalism. With Appalachian’s convenient off-campus program in Wilkes County, they thought they’d give graduate school a try.

“The community college is just down the road from where we live,” Warren says. “We used what would have been driving time up to Boone as study time.”

Appalachian and 10 area community colleges are partnered as the Appalachian Learning Alliance to help increase community and state access to higher education. Students move through a program together as a group known as a cohort. Currently, Appalachian offers 40 off-campus undergraduate and graduate cohort programs. Most are in the field of education, with others in business and social work.

Roten says her superintendent encouraged her to enroll in Wilkes County’s middle grades education cohort because at the time Wilkes County was constructing four new middle schools to better serve its students. “The master’s program has been really helpful to me,” Roten says. “The topics we discussed in class have been so relevant to what I’ve experienced in teaching in a new school.”

As an English/language arts teacher, Roten has applied new techniques in her teaching, such as literature circles where students read a novel and discuss it in small groups.

As part of the degree program, Warren and Roten participated in a 15-day study abroad program in England. Their research in The British Library, The British Museum, Oxford and Canterbury, and travels around the English countryside, have enhanced her teaching of history, social studies and language, Warren says.

For Roten, her personal experiences in England help her bring alive her students’ reading assignments that take place in Great Britian, such as the books “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”

Warren and Roten completed their graduate coursework in August. Because Appalachian does not hold a summer commencement ceremony, the pair had their degrees conferred at the December commencement in Appalachian’s Holmes Convocation Center in Boone. Appalachian awarded 809 undergraduate and 179 graduate degrees Saturday.

“The work was the same level of expectation as master’s degree courses on campus,” Warren says. “We enjoyed the program but it was very tough. In the first few weeks, Angela said she wasn’t sure she could do it all: lesson plans, parent-teacher conferences, grading and graduate school. But I told her we would stick together and could finish.

“We maintained a 4.0 all the way through,” Warren says of their grade point averages. “We’re both self-motivated.”

Warren says the sacrifices she made to finish her master’s degree are worth it. “I found the program stimulating and exciting. I learned a lot about myself, and my role as a leader as well as a teacher. It helped me personally and professionally.”

A third family member is pursuing a teaching career. Warren’s son, Adam, is attending Appalachian on a N.C. Teaching Fellows scholarship in the Reich College of Education. He is a freshman.

For more information on Appalachian’s off-campus programs, visit www.ext-dl.appstate.edu or call (828) 262-3113.

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Picture Caption: Sharon Warren and her daughter Angela Roten, far right, at Appalachian State University’s commencement ceremony on Dec. 13.