Online Education Degree Provides Unique Path to Teaching License

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Category: Feature Story | Teacher Education

Online Master of Science in Teacher Education student chooses job embedded program to work as a first-grade teacher while pursuing Tennessee state education licensure.

Tabby Dotson online student teacher

Online master’s degree provides a second chance

During her undergraduate program, Tabby Dotson discovered her passion for teaching. However, after the pandemic altered her study plans, Tabby wasn’t sure how she’d be able to achieve her teaching license. The online MS in Teacher Education program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, changed that by providing a path for her to become a licensed teacher.

“I was working on my teaching degree when the pandemic hit, and because of that, childcare for my own two sons was impossible, so I decided to finish my bachelor’s with an Elementary Education focus but without the teaching license,” Tabby explains. “Throughout the course of the pandemic, I quickly realized I had made a mistake and longed to be in the classroom.”

She started looking into how to teach with a bachelor’s degree but no teaching license. She found the online MS in Teacher Education program for job-embedded candidates at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It allows students with bachelor’s degrees to teach, earn a salary, and pursue their teaching license concurrently.

Tabby says, “Before the online job-embedded program, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to afford student teaching and daycare for my kids. This online job-embedded program really changed that for me.”

The practitioner concentration MS in Teacher Education program also allowed Tabby to achieve another lifelong dream, attending UT.

I grew up singing Good Ole Rocky Top. We watched the Vols play every Saturday. I knew I would attend the University of Tennessee, so when it was time to apply for my master’s degree, I knew UTK was the only place I wanted to go.

— Tabby Dotson, online student, MS Teacher Education with a Practitioner Concentration

In addition to Tabby’s Tennessean roots, she also recognizes the benefit of earning a degree from a nationally recognized and highly respected research school.

“Immediately after this program, I plan to really focus and grow my skills as a teacher. My long-term goal is to come back to UT for my PhD in Elementary Education. My dream job would be a professor at UT in the Teacher Education Program,” Tabby shares.

Flexible online schedule and strong support

The program was everything Tabby was looking for, and the online option provided the flexibility she needed as a new teacher, mother, and wife.  

Tabby says, “Through this program, I have met some truly amazing educators. It has helped me really embrace my role as a first-grade teacher. I came into my current teaching position mid-way through February, and it was quite a transition. My mentor teacher has been there for every question about paperwork, behavior questions, and so much more.”  

Though being a first-year teacher and juggling her boys’ schedules with her own can be difficult, Tabby shares, “I have a ton of support in this program, and it being online makes it very doable.”  

I have always dreamed of attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and I feel so grateful to do it at a time and in a way that allows me to be a mom and have my kids see me go through my master’s program.

— Tabby Dotson

Q&A With Tabby Dotson on her experience as an online learner

Why did you choose an online program vs. an in-person program?   

As a mom, my main priority was to be able to juggle my boys’ schedule with my own. Being online allows that. Not only can I be fully present as a full-time teacher, wife, and mom, now I can earn my master’s degree while doing that.  

What support have you received from professors, peers, advisors, and other professionals at UT that stands out to you? 

Anytime I have a question about, really anything, I know I can always email my advisor. Having peers going through the same program and the same learning curve as teachers makes the classes more enjoyable because you know everyone is in the same boat, and you can all bounce ideas off one another. 

What advice do you have for new and prospective students?  

My advice would be to really embrace your role as a teacher and student. Ask all the questions, and communicate your worries and needs as a new educator. In this program, you are surrounded by other job-embedded students dealing with the same behavior issues, grading, meetings, etc., and talking about it with other new teachers makes you feel so much better.

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