Craig teachers go back to school

Master's degrees can open career paths and raise salaries

When Paula Duzik and James Neton wanted to expand their career options as teachers, they knew it would take a role reversal. They would have to become students again.

"I started to see that my family was probably going to be in Craig for a while, so I wanted to explore possibilities for my career because I didn't want to do the same thing forever," Duzik said.

"To do that, I had to look into a master's degree for another direction."

Duzik, who earned a bachelor's degree in English and speech, taught English for eight years at Moffat County High School. She then applied and was hired to be a school counselor.

Part of the stipulation for her hire was that she go back to school and earn a master's degree to be a counselor.

In May, she completed her work for the 56-credit hour master's course in school counseling.

Neton taught history and Spanish for 10 years when he decided to go to school for a mater's degree in educational media (better known as library sciences).

"Talking to people, I learned that being a librarian was a good opportunity," he said. "I wanted to add that as a possibility for the future."

The two high school staff members are two of 100 Moffat County School District licensed professionals who have earned college credits beyond a bachelor's degree, said district personnel assistant Cindy Vorhies.

The district has 180 licensed employees.

"Every year, we average two or three more completing their degrees," Vorhies said. "Teachers from the district are constantly going back to school."

There are additional benefits for going back to school. For every 12 college credits teachers earn, they make a "lane change" in their pay level.

Employees can earn a pay increase until they have earned 24 credits beyond their master's degree.

Vorhies said 18 teachers earned lane changes for this school year.

In Duzik's case she received three pay increases as she earned her master's.

"The money was nice, but for me I was more focused on career flexibility," she said.

Duzik has two daughters and she didn't want to take a program that would keep her away from home for extended periods of time. She enrolled in a program through the University of Northern Colorado that offered weekend classes at a satellite campus in Denver.

She said she took two to three classes a semester.

"It was nice because every three-credit class happened over two weekends," she said. "I could go there and focus on my class for three straight days and then go back home."

Neton finished his 36-credit degree from UNC in two years. He sped up the process by taking more credits in the summer. He was also able to complete the degree while his wife had a baby.

"(My wife) was extremely understanding with my need to finish my requirements," he said.

High school Principal Jane Krogman, who also has her master's degree, said she encourages her staff to go back to school.

"The pursuit of an advanced degree by professional educators enhances their classroom teaching," she said. "Through their own learning, teachers impact the learning of their students with new lessons and material."

The increased pay for teachers also makes the district more attractive to incoming candidates for a job because it increases the average pay of teachers, Krogman said.

Like Duzik, Neton said the pay was an incentive, but the main reason to go back to school was to give more options for the future.

"I really think I'll enjoy a career as a librarian sometime in the future," he said. "That's what I'm looking forward to the most."

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