Kari Caldwell: A Win-Win Opportunity at UIS

Mataya Caldwell, David Caldwell, Kari Caldwell and Rebekah Merritt
Above: Mataya Caldwell, David Caldwell, Kari Caldwell and Rebekah Merritt

After working as a middle school Outreach Worker in Galesburg, Illinois, Kari Caldwell knew a few years ago that she was ready for a career change.

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) sounded good, but so did a Master’s in Teacher Leadership at UIS. “When I found out that I could major in teacher leadership,” she says, “and use my elective hours to work toward an ESL endorsement, the program at UIS became a win/win situation for me.”

Kari actually started teaching ESL this past school year. She wants to empower her students to overcome adversity and develop independence so they can have a secure future. With her new master’s degree, she will be able to continue her career as an ESL teacher—“and as a leader in my building!”

Kari has appreciated the flexibility of the UIS online program, especially the opportunity to schedule her time according to what works for her specific situation.

Even so, balancing family and classwork has been challenging. She made it work by focusing on her job and family during the week. “On the weekends, my wonderful husband took charge of the family so I could dedicate my time to my studies.” In the end, the ability to work around her family and work schedule to complete her coursework made her a better teacher.

The coursework was rigorous, but the teachers were “fantastic,” according to Kari—though she has one exception: While she can understand requiring strict APA format for formal papers and Capstone projects, she wished professors had not required it for informal posts: “I prefer a more informal online ‘classroom’ environment in which to bounce ideas off of classmates and professors.”

For her Capstone Project—of which she is proud—Kari successfully piloted a grading policy for English Language Learners (ELL) in her building: “I’m glad the project was so pertinent to the current situation in our school and district. The ELL team in my school plans to further develop the policy and possibly present it for district-wide implementation.”

Kari also says she has enjoyed getting to know her classmates, especially Hector Caceres, Jennifer Smith and Jennifer Binder: “They gave me good ideas and feedback over the past two years, and I cannot wait to meet them at the online brunch and graduation.”