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What is Reinhardt University's Master of Arts in Teaching Program Really Like?

Find out from Heather Cato, MAT Class of 2013 - now teaching 3rd grade in Cherokee County (Ga.)

What prompted you to work in education? 

I had worked at Reinhardt University in the Alumni Office and really enjoyed working with the alumni and the students. I started thinking that maybe I would like to work in education in some form but wasn’t sure how to make that happen considering my four-year degree was in communications.

How long were you a paraprofessional?

I worked as a Special Education paraprofessional at Cherokee High School for seven years. When I first started, I was overwhelmed because I had never worked in a public school setting or worked with Special Education students; however, I ended up loving my job and found it really hard to leave this past year to pursue my candidate teaching.

Why did you decide to get your MAT? 

I received my Associate and Bachelor degrees at Reinhardt (College) and had worked there for four years. When I decided to pursue a degree in education, Reinhardt was my first thought. I met with Dr. Curry because I was interested in pursuing a degree in Secondary Education in English. (MAT Program Coordinator) Nancy Carter saw me there and told me about the MAT Program. I had walked in with no interest in a Master's program and no desire to teach at an elementary level. I left an hour later with an MAT application in my hand and ready to get started on my new career path!

Did you explore any other schools for the MAT? If so, why did you pick Reinhardt?

I looked at other schools, both traditional and online, but I was drawn to Reinhardt because I was confident in the quality of their education program. I knew that online classes would not work for me because I need the personal attention that comes with being in a classroom with a professor and other students. I knew that Reinhardt's MAT Program offered small classes and one-on-one attention.

Personal attention within the MAT program and within the elementary school classroom is a hallmark of Reinhardt University's MAT program.
Personal attention within the MAT program
and within the elementary school classroom
is a hallmark of Reinhardt University's MAT

What were the other MAT students like? 

We showed up at the first class, and almost nobody knew anyone. We ended up being such a tight-knit group of friends that it was really emotional when we graduated and realized that we wouldn’t be spending two nights a week together anymore. Our cohort [group of students who start classes together - they take courses together, in the same order, through graduation] consisted of people from every walk of life. . .those who worked full-time outside the home, stay-at-home moms, married, engaged and single people.  We went through two weddings and one pregnancy & birth during our two years together. I firmly believe that God placed all of us together in that cohort, and each of us brought something totally unique to our educational experience. I made friends through the Reinhardt MAT Program that I know I will have for the rest of my life.

When you met your MAT classmates for the first time, how did you feel and why?

I was excited, anxious, overwhelmed, doubting my decision to go back to school, wondering how everybody else was feeling (later we would all talk about how we ALL felt the same way that first night). I was completely out of my comfort zone after not having been in a college setting for quite some time. It was helpful to know that we were all starting from the same point.

Tell me about your favorite MAT professor? Why was he or she your favorite? 

Oh wow. . .where do I start? Nancy Carter would have to be my favorite. Maybe because I always felt like we had a divine appointment that day I met with Dr. Curry, and she was responsible for me deciding on the MAT Program. Plus, her no nonsense way of teaching and relating to us as non-traditional students made for a comfortable and relaxed learning environment. Our entire cohort adored Professor Carter because she truly cared about each of us. She was always there to listen whether we were venting about a failed lesson plan in our classroom or excitedly telling her about a moment when we were able to watch one of our students “get it.”  She understood our stresses, our highs and lows, our ups and downs, our times when “life” just got the best of us. Some other professors that stood out to me were Dr. Tom Reed because he taught our class on Special Education, which held a special place in my heart; Dr. Georgann Toop because she pushed us to the edge, watched us struggle when we got there, and shared in our victory when we “jumped off.”; and Dr. Ann Smith because she is the epitome of the sweet, soft-spoken, caring, and nurturing elementary school teacher that every student dreams of having.  

Mrs. Cato had students use dry erase boards to review and demonstrate their multiplication facts. The students were engaged and involved in showing what they knew.
Mrs. Cato had students use dry erase boards to review and demonstrate their multiplication facts. The students were engaged and involved in showing what they knew.

Now that you've been in the classroom, are there any techniques that you've used that have been particularly helpful?  

The Reinhardt University MAT Program is firmly based in the theory of Constructivism and Differentiation. Differentiation is a necessity in today’s classroom environment as teachers are dealing with students with different learning styles and readiness levels. The days of lecturing to the class and having them work from a book every day are fading, and Reinhardt University is preparing its education graduates for the future of teaching.

What were classes like in the Reinhardt University MAT? 

We were able to teach lessons to our fellow students and receive feedback from them. Our technology class was instrumental in helping us find great resources for our future classrooms. We were given the opportunity to present on the SMARTBoards in the classrooms, and that was very helpful considering some of us had never used any type of interactive board before. Our professors always “modeled” our activities for us, and we would actually go through lessons the same way that an elementary student. This really opened our eyes to what our future students might be thinking and the challenges they might face.

What was the most important thing you learned in candidate teaching? 

What is the saying about “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans?” Lesson plans are definitely a daily necessity in teaching, but you must be willing to deviate from the plans sometimes. Students may respond differently than you had hoped, or you may have some students absent that day or some students may be having a bad day, and you have to change things up at the last minute. Or maybe you spend three hours in a hallway because of tornado warnings, and you're trying to console 2nd graders and telling them that everything will be okay. Flexibility is a key component of being a teacher. 

Tell me about the classroom atmosphere in the MAT program? Was it helpful (or not) to be in a cohort where students take all the classes in the program together? 

Our cohort was extremely tight-knit from the first week of class. I would hope that everyone would have the same experience that we had within the Reinhardt MAT Program.  It was very helpful to learn in a cohort because we all were working for the same goal, and we were able help each other stay focused when we became overwhelmed. I think it would be hard to feel that connection if you were to have that constant turnover of different students in your classes each semester.

If you had a colleague who was considering Reinhardt and another school, what would you say were the benefits of Reinhardt's program? 

The personal attention is what sold me on Reinhardt’s program. My professors were always accessible by phone or email, and they genuinely wanted to see us succeed. Reinhardt University itself is a community, and you immediately feel a part of that the first time you step on campus. I don’t know that I would’ve had the same personal experience at a larger school, and I know I wouldn’t have experienced that level of attention through an online program.