Through GWU School of Education Graduate Studies, Educator Regains Purpose

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Jessica Stump (’16) Appreciates Relevance of Courses, Guidance from Faculty  

While completing her master of arts in curriculum and instruction at Gardner-Webb University, Jessica Stump (’16) of King, N.C., expected to benefit intellectually. She didn’t, however, anticipate how her studies would affect her personally.

“I have loved, loved, loved being back in the role of learner,” she observed. “In the field of education, we tend to distinguish teachers from students/learners. I have come to know that our work is more effective as the lines between teacher and learner become blurred. I cannot begin to understand the process of meaningful insight, unless I am living it myself.”

Because her classes were entirely online, she also didn’t think she would have opportunities to get to know her fellow students. “I have been able to form special relationships that will last long after our work ends,” she assessed. “Our group work has forced us to get to know one another in unique ways. We are spread across the state, are in various stages of our careers, work in many areas of education, and have differing learning habits. While at times frustrating, these differences have enhanced our experience.

“We have come to understand and respect each other deeply,” she continued. “I’ve grown to know my classmates through Zoom! video sessions, frequent emails, texts, and Google chats. We’ve met for supper and planned projects over lunch—meeting in the middle. I am certain that we’ll continue to keep in touch and support one another. Going through grad school is tough! We have persevered as a family of learners.”

An instructional coach with Yadkin (N.C.) County Schools, Stump was introduced to Gardner-Webb when representatives for the School of Education led an information session in her district.

“I knew it was a long shot for grad school to actually come to fruition. I went through the process, gathered the required information and adhered to all the deadlines, all the while wondering how our family of five—with one student in elementary school, one in middle school, and one in high school—could afford this extra payment,” Stump related. “I was holding off till the very last minute to make a final commitment. While on vacation, I received a call that I’d been awarded a graduate school scholarship as my philosophy of learning fit that of the Gardner-Webb community. That’s the moment I knew that I could proceed with this journey.”

The topics covered in her online classes were immediately beneficial to her on the job. “I’ve felt each class was specifically designed with me in mind,” she revealed. “As a result of this study, my work is more purposeful now. I have the biggies, again, in the forefront of my mind—responsive instruction, meaningful goals, reflective practices and healthy relationships.”

Additionally, Stump appreciates the role model provided by Dr. Jennifer Putnam, GWU Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Curriculum and Instruction Master’s Program. “Without a doubt, Dr. Putnam is an invaluable mentor,” she praised. “She exudes a rare enthusiasm that comes out even on weekly recorded videos. Her advice and feedback comes from a place of preparation, knowledge, and specificity. I am in awe of how our assignments have been so purposefully structured throughout the entire program to encourage understanding and independence.”

Although she experienced the Gardner-Webb campus from a distance, she has felt the impact of the University’s Christian community. “It has been made clear to me that the faculty and staff of Gardner-Webb operate under Christ-like principles of acceptance, compassion, and love,” she affirmed. “From the standards of the curriculum and instruction program to email responses from employees in the registrar’s office, tech support or professors, humble, servant-like attitudes abound.”