Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction
"Special education has always been my love. This degree is enabling me to be able to go back and be an instructor of education and work preparing future teachers. It gives me a different perspective from the student to the professor side to the leadership side versus the teacher side."
The people closest to Leanita Pelts know she loves learning.
"My family thinks I'm a career student forever and ever," she said with a smile during a stop on the RazorBug Diploma Tour. Pelts received a framed diploma June 29 for her Education Specialist degree in curriculum and instruction from the U of A.
The sun was blazing in downtown Clarksville when Ed Bengtson, head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the U of A, congratulated Pelts in front of a mural depicting the town's history. Members of Pelts' family stood a few feet away, cheering from the shade as Pelts reached for her diploma.
The RazorBug Diploma Tour celebrated the success of U of A students in online degree programs. More than 440 of them applied for graduation in May.
"It meant a lot to me (to earn the degree online) because I've always wanted to continue my education," Pelts said. "Working full time, the online program was what I needed in order to be able to go forward with the things that I want to do. And, the professors were great. Everybody worked with me on the classes that I needed for what I wanted to do."
Pelts returned to work at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville as an instructor of teacher education. She previously worked 30 years at the University of Ozarks as an office manager, program coordinator and instructor before leaving to teach special education in the Jasper and Clarksville school districts.
"Special education has always been my love," Pelts said. "This degree is enabling me to be able to go back and be an instructor of education and work preparing future teachers. It gives me a different perspective from the student to the professor side to the leadership side versus the teacher side."
Pelts is a veteran of online education. After earning associate's and bachelor's degrees in the traditional fashion from University of the Ozarks, she earned an online master's in special education from the U of A in 2006 and an online graduate certificate in autism from U of A in 2015. She was able to further her education through challenging times including the serious illness of her husband and working full time.
"Everybody worked really well with me," Pelts said. "They were able to work things around my schedule and answer whatever questions I had. They were there to make a degree program that would fit my needs."
The RazorBug is a converted red Volkswagen Beetle that sports a Razorback snout, tail and razor-edged spine. It has been used for recruitment and special events since 2005. The tour took place over two weeks in southern Arkansas and the River Valley in June.