This week, the Master of Arts and Teaching at the University of Southern California published an article on its blog highlighting one student’s inspiring experience in online learning. As supporters of online and blended learning, we thought we’d share her experience on Getting Smart. “Student Spotlight: Shannon O’Conner” by Shannon O’Conner was originally published on the [email protected] blog.

Shannon O'Conner, Photo Courtesy of [email protected]

Hello! My name is Shannon O’Connor and I am proud to be a part of the September 2010 [email protected] TESOL cohort. I grew up in a small town in the middle of Kansas and received my Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communication Studies and Spanish from the University of Kansas. Teaching was never on my list of career choices, but I always knew that I wanted to help people and began working in the not for profit sector upon graduation. After moving around the country several times, I was relocated to Oklahoma City, OK.

Upon arriving to OKC three years ago, I immediately found my dream job at the YMCA where I direct a program called Y Achievers to help inner city and underserved teens achieve higher education. My boss challenged me to rebuild the program in to a citywide initiative to reach more students and create an avenue for business leaders to become involved in helping our youth reach their full potential. I finally realized I needed a more formal education to fully implement a successful program. However, not any Education degree would suffice! I specifically sought a program that focused on urban schools.

[email protected] allowed me to continue working in Oklahoma City, but still receive a top tier degree from a renowned Education school. I was very skeptical of online learning because I am a true auditory learner, who needs to hear, discuss and interact with others in order to retain material. I actually think I am learning more in the online version of this program than if I were sitting in class in Los Angeles because we are afforded the same professors, curriculum and standards, but with luxury of tiny class sizes of ten students or less in each live class. We have intelligent discussions, share great advice and I have even made lifelong friends in my classes!

Overall, this entire experience, while unbelievably challenging, has opened my eyes to the information and concepts that I was craving in order to help me better manage urban classrooms. Terms such as “Social Capital”, “Culturally Relevant Classroom Management”, and “Affective Filter” have provided me with the knowledge and framework to help people understand the changes I plan to make in my community.

My journey as an [email protected] student is unique because I do not plan to become a classroom teacher. Rather, I have embarked on this journey to become a better facilitator, to develop rich curriculum for my programs at the Y and to find the best avenues to reach the students of Oklahoma City Public Schools. While only half way through the program, I have been able to redesign several key aspects of the Y Achievers program by using concepts from my classes. [email protected] has not only greatly impacted me, but it has also influenced hundreds of volunteers and students in Oklahoma City. The course load is intense and the time is demanding, but it is all worth it when I look at the growth I have experienced both personally and professionally. With that… Fight On!

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