M.Ed. in Educational Technology
“This degree will allow me to incorporate even more activities and opportunities for my students in the classroom and being from a small school that’s invaluable for these students who might not otherwise see that.”
Although Tabitha Kolb is a mother of five — one adult son and three sons and a daughter still in school — the Jasper High School science teacher chooses to spend every workday with children.
"I love being able to work with kids, especially middle school and high school students," she said. "At that age, they are really starting to become their own person. I enjoy getting to know them, watching them grow. It's really rewarding.
"It's a little different when they're not your kids," Kolb laughed. "You don't have all of the same responsibility for them."
Kolb's children range from her 25-year-old son who is married and lives in Conway to twin boys who will be in sixth grade this fall. She is starting her eighth year teaching this month, and her sixth year at Jasper.
Like many graduates of online degree programs, Kolb's educational path didn't follow a straight line. It touched three higher education institutions and an alternative licensure program along the way. Her journey — so far — ended with a stop on the University of Arkansas Razorbug Diploma Tour. Kolb was honored when U of A staff and faculty traveled 1,850 miles over two weeks in June through northern and southern Arkansas celebrating graduates of online degree programs. The presentations featured as a backdrop the Razorbug, a 2005 Volkswagen Beetle converted to look like a Razorback, with tusks, snout, razor-edged spine, hooves and curly tail.
Ed Bengtson presented Kolb's framed diploma to her for a Master of Education in educational technology June 27 in front of Jasper High School. At the time, Bengtson was the chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education and Health Professions. He has since been chosen to serve as an associate dean in the Graduate School and International Education.
Ed Pohl, the new dean of the Graduate School and International Education, sent congratulatory letters and GSIE swag to graduate students honored on the tour.
"Being a teacher and a mother, I needed something that I could do at my own leisure, to not have to worry about being late to a class or missing a class but be able to have the flexibility to complete my degree in a timely manner and still be a good teacher and parent," Kolb said.
Her children want to play sports and be involved in other activities.
"The online format allowed me to not only work from home but to take my computer with me to a sporting event or an activity, and I could still continue working on my degree and be present at the same time," she said. "I feel like to my children that it reinforced the idea they can do whatever they set their minds to. The regular, ordinary path is not always the only path. There are many ways to get where you want to be."
Kolb enjoyed having the Razorbug come to Jasper. Her family, including her parents, attended the presentation, and her college roommate from years earlier surprised her with a visit, too.
"I can't imagine a more fun way to have my diploma presented to me," Kolb said. "The whole U of A experience has just been phenomenal. I had all the support I needed."
Path to Teaching
Kolb started at the U of A on campus in Fayetteville fresh out of Valley Springs High School but didn't finish a degree at that time. She met her husband, Wayne, when both were working at FedEx. She was employed as a pricing analyst when she earned a bachelor's degree in organizational management from John Brown University in Siloam Springs. It was sort of a distance education program; she attended courses at North Arkansas College in Harrison through a partnership the community college had with JBU.
"We met one night a week for 18 months; I think it was Monday night," she recalled. "A lot of my general education credits that everybody needs to have I had already gotten so I finished the specialty business classes during that 18 months."
After working at FedEx for 16 years — and with her twins still in preschool — Kolb decided she wanted to try teaching.
"Teaching was something I had always wanted to do," she said. "It had always kind of been on my mind. As the twins were getting older, it seemed like a good time to make a career move."
She went through the state's alternative licensure program for people holding at least a four-year degree in an area other than education. She was hired in Lead Hill after completing her licensure and taught there for two years.
At Jasper, which is the largest of the four school districts in Newton County, student enrollment is about 800, including students in Oark and Kingston, which are consolidated with Jasper although they are located in two neighboring counties. Kolb teaches seventh and eighth-grade science, 10th-grade biology and eighth-grade computer science.
She plans to use what she learned in the master's program with her students this fall. She cited podcasts and infographics, in particular. Students' exposure to podcasts varies widely, Kolb said, and she sees them as a way for students to delve into an area of interest they can share with other students, who can then report on what they learned from the podcast.
Kolb said some of her students like to make posters and she wants to introduce them to infographic creation, a technique that may help visual learners improve their retention of subject matter.
"This degree will allow me to incorporate even more activities and opportunities for my students in the classroom and being from a small school that's invaluable for these students who might not otherwise see that," Kolb said.