Christy Waters '04, '19 MAEd Headshot

Christy Waters '04, '19 MAEd

Special Education

Supportive Faculty Makes All the Difference

Christy Waters '04, '19 MAEd came back to MMU for her graduate program because of the support and individualized help she received from the faculty in both the undergraduate and graduate programs.

MMU: Why did you decide to go through the Master of Arts in Education program at Mount Mercy?

CW: I graduated from Mount Mercy in 2004 with a general education degree in teaching K-6. In 2014, I was offered a position as a special education teacher—Strat 2 Behavior focused. I needed to add an endorsement to my license and thought Mount Mercy would be a great place to continue my education. I’m a single parent to a 12-year-old daughter and have a history of learning difficulties myself. The staff at Mount Mercy remembered who I was, the type of learner I was, and welcomed me with open arms to continue my education towards a master’s degree. Mount Mercy offered night classes, flexible ways to communicate with my professors, and a very personal touch with small class sizes and tons of support and encouragement.

I’m a single parent and have a history of learning difficulties myself. The staff at Mount Mercy remembered who I was, the type of learner I was, and welcomed me with open arms to continue my education towards a master’s degree.

Christy Waters '04, '19 MAEd

MMU: What is your exact job description? Could you walk us through a day at your job?

CW: I’m a special education teacher with the Iowa City Community School District. My job includes providing supportive tools to students with behavioral plans. I write behavior intervention plans to help students access the general education classroom with peers—providing a safe classroom when the student is struggling behaviorally or academically. I also write individualized education plans (IEPs) for students so they can build their learning levels and achieve an education. Along the same lines, I provide Specialized Design Instruction (SDI) to students with learning differences.

A normal day would be checking in with my students, making sure they have what they need to start the day (often times students might not have had a good night sleep, support at home, clean clothes or food), check in with the para educators that work directly with my students, provide a listening ear (student often carry many responsibilities, anxiety, stress and trauma). My day continues with teaching students, either in small group or individually, skills they need to help continue their education (most often my students get intense skills in social emotional learning skills and interaction with others). Often times my day will include talking with students about behavior issues they are having in the classroom or handling aggressive situations and using de-escalation skills and the student’s intense behavior intervention plan. The end of the day often includes data reports, collaboration with parents and school staff, and attending meetings.

MMU: How did the program prepare you for your current job? How did you benefit from the program?

CW: Mount Mercy’s educational programs have helped prepare me for today’s classrooms and students—giving me many tools to help meet the individualized needs of today’s youth. I’ve become a very detail-driven teacher that is able to accommodate students with very different learning needs. Mount Mercy has helped me build a solid teaching foundation that empowers me to educate students from a variety of backgrounds and needs. The material that was provided and taught to me always included self-reflection and tied it back to real-life situations I or my classmates have encountered.

Mount Mercy’s educational programs have helped prepare me for today’s classrooms and students—giving me many tools to help meet the individualized needs of today’s youth.

Christy Waters '04, '19 MAEd

One thing that was very beneficial was the ability to student teach in my own classroom and have my professors attend lessons and provide feedback about my teaching, students, or my handling of situations or staff. I continue to consult with my Mount Mercy classmates and professors even after graduating. I’ve really been able to build my toolbox of resources to help me adapt to the ever-changing classroom and educational platform.

MMU: Besides the educational growth you achieved, how did you grow personally throughout the program? If so, when and how did you acknowledge your personal growth?

"The staff at Mount Mercy is still a big part of my life personally and professionally. Throughout life’s traumas, I have continued to gain confidence in myself and work with students and educators."

CW: The staff at Mount Mercy has continued to be a big part of my life personally and professionally. Throughout life's traumas, I have continued to gain confidence in myself and work with students and educators. I realized this when talking with MAEd staff that I could accomplish this degree, and that I had a very strong support system with me, thanks to Mount Mercy. Going back to school as a single, mid-30's woman can be very stressful and overwhelming. Mount Mercy was the support system I needed to achieve this goal.

MMU: What is the most important skill to have in the education field and how can you develop it?

CW: The most important skill in education is patience. Without patience, you can’t truly listen to your students and help accommodate their needs, or even really hear what they need to become a better learner. The ability to hone this skill takes a positive mind set and the understanding that we are all different—it’s the ability to breathe deeply and stay focused and organized in life. To achieve this skill, you need to practice these skills in every life situation. Mount Mercy has reminded me to just breath and be patient with those around us. We all learn and view things differently.

MMU: What differences can you see in yourself before and after the MAEd program?

CW: I entered the master´s program with general teaching knowledge and my own personal experiences with the special education program, but, through my education, I was able to obtain a deeper depth of knowledge of students with special needs and the world we live in. The master's program demonstrated a variety of depth within special education and challenged me to view situations from different angles then I had before. I have a better understanding of the special education laws and struggles parents have being advocates for their children.

MMU: Did you have any difficulties during your time in the MAEd program? If so, how did you overcome those difficulties? (difficulties could be work, kids, time, and so on)

CW: When I first enrolled at Mount Mercy to compete my undergrad, I came with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), meaning I needed some help with learning. When I came back for my master's, the staff remembered I had these difficulties and were able to help accommodate my needs with online reading textbooks and writing support from the writing center. Thanks to the master’s program, I was able to avoid issues with attending class because they offered night classes and commuting from Iowa City wasn’t an issue. Throughout my master's I needed to bring my daughter a few times due to child care issues. The staff were welcoming to this and allowed her to come with me.

When I came back for my master's, the staff remembered I had these difficulties and were able to help accommodate my needs with online reading textbooks and writing support from the writing center.

Christy Waters '04, '19 MAEd

"I would not have completed my master's without Mount Mercy, and I cannot see myself attending another master's program and having the success that I had."

MMU: Anything to add?

CW: For those adults that are nervous about continuing their education and have doubts about gaining a degree, I strongly recommend Mount Mercy University’s master's program. The staff is more like an extended part of my family who challenge and support me. I would not have completed my master's without Mount Mercy, and I cannot see myself attending another master's program and having the success that I had.

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