Despite Craig's distance from the ivy-covered walls of a traditional graduate school campus of higher learning, many educators have found ways to supplement their teaching with advanced degrees.
"We have a good percentage of teachers with master's degrees, around 53 percent in the K-12 Moffat County School District," Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said.
In Moffat County, a Master or Arts in Teaching degree is not required, but can tremendously benefit those committed to careers teaching specific elementary and secondary school subjects.
"The most common master's degrees we have are when the teacher has gotten a bachelor's in something like history or political science and decides to go back to get a master's in secondary education for instance, with a concentration on the level of kids they're going to teach," Sheridan said.
While the district only requires that teachers complete 90 "professional development contact hours," per every five years, many teachers seek advanced degrees not only to improve their teaching but also, according to Sheridan, to move up substantially on the district's salary scale.
Craig's location creates the biggest obstacle in achieving these ends.
"The good part about Craig is its isolation. The bad part of Craig is its isolation in trying to tap resources. If you're living in metro Denver everything you need is within five minutes. Here, teachers have to use their summers to go to Adam's State, CSU, or Greeley. A lot of people use their weekends too. Online programs have really been our savior," Sheridan said.
Next Wednesday, Craig Middle School eighth-grade math teacher Deborah Yoast plans to finish the online graduate degree program she has been working toward for the last two years. After ten sets of eight-week classes through Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University, Yoast will receive her Master of Arts in Education with a focus on technology in the curriculum.
"You have to order books from the bookstore in Arizona, then from the list of required reading, you have to post responses to questions, write papers based on what we're learning, and there's some group projects where you post threads on a site with submissions from students across the country," Yoast said.
Having to devote a minimum of 15 hours a week to the course, Yoast said she will feel relieved to finish a course that was stressful, adding the task of being a good student to the busy jobs of being a good teacher and a mother.
Yoast's husband Norm, CMS physical science instructor, also took the same online Master's technology program to benefit his ongoing River Watch program.
Despite the fact that her family now has two student loans to pay off, Deborah Yoast remains positive about the sacrifice.
"It has really excited me about pulling technology into my classroom to make math more exciting," Yoast said.
Fellow CMS eighth-grade math teacher Ann Charchalis is half-way through an online master's in math education program through Walden University similar in format to Yoast's with its courses divided into eight-week blocks.
While she is anxious to finish the program and plans to double her course load over the summer, Charchalis said she finds it easier to complete the courses by being surrounded by other teachers pursuing similar online degrees.
"We have an after school study group of sorts, supporting one another to clarify things, work on ideas, proofread each other's work and help each other get the hang of APA style details," Charchalis said.
The process for other educators has not been quite as convenient.
Moffat County High school counselor Paula Duzik has been working on her master's in school counseling degree for four years. She could've done it faster if she didn't have to drive to the University of Northern Colorado's Lowry campus in Denver for weekend classes.
"Last spring, I completed 11 credits, meaning I took 22 trips to Denver," said Duzik. "I wanted to widen my options to become a counselor, and you need a master's to do that. We're isolated here, but the district works well with us and compensates us well for the efforts."
For teachers that have completed the academic journey and for those still contemplating the time and cost, the bottom line for the district and the teachers was summed up by Charchalis:
"This will help me be a better teacher."