Q: Welcome! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’ve come from?

A: Thanks for having me. My name is Christi Cross and I’m a student in the Alma College Master of Arts in Special Education with Learning Disabilities endorsement program. I am 54 years old, live in Onaway, Mich., and work as a special education teacher at Wolverine Middle/High School. I have a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from Ferris State University.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about your journey to be a part of this program?

A: Absolutely. When I was younger, I worked as a teacher, but about 15 years ago, I left the field to pursue a career in government administration. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I started hearing all kinds of stories about teachers leaving the field and thought, I had to do something. So, I returned and became a special education teacher — but in order to keep that job, I was required to get a degree in the field.

I began by pursuing a graduate degree through a state university. That program didn’t end up working out for me. I was so relieved when I learned about Alma’s program and their partnership with Talent Together. They take all of the legwork out of it for students.

Q: How so?

A: They told me, “No money is going to pass through your hands,” because it’s a grant-funded program, and the administration of it is handled by the state of Michigan, Talent Together and Alma College. I don’t need to sign up for individual classes, because Talent Together and Alma College have it covered. I don’t need to come to in-person classes — it’s all online, which is perfect for working people like myself. All I have to do is focus on my students and my studies, and that helps me, so much.

Q: What is the program itself like?

A: My first impression of the program has stuck with me for the duration of my involvement in it: Dr. Peggy Yates has created an incredibly relevant program. This is something that is currently helping me in my day-to-day work, teaching kids how to read. She stays up-to-date on the latest and greatest trends in the industry and passes that onto her students. We are lucky to learn from her.

On a big-picture scale, we’re learning how to plan and provide instruction, encompassing evidence-based practices in reading, writing, math and behavior. We’re also learning how to supervise support staff in our classrooms. Like I said a moment ago, it’s entirely online, but the interactions that I’ve had with my cohort are all extremely positive. It’s a bright, motivated group of people who are going to graduate from this program and become excellent special education teachers, if they aren’t already. We can also reach out to each other if we have issues outside of the class; like, if we need advice on a student we’re teaching. We’re actually going to come to Alma College for a special graduation ceremony when we complete the program — and the cost of that trip is being covered for us! What a gift.

Q: Do you have any regrets about taking part in this program?

A: Only that I had not done it sooner! I can’t emphasize enough how great it feels to have the bureaucratic part of your education taken care of for you, nor can I say enough about Dr. Yates. I am grateful, as are the students that I teach and the school that I work for.

Learn more about graduate programs at Alma College, including the Master of Arts in Special Education with Learning Disabilities endorsement program, at alma.edu.