Jenna Rygol had been working in human resources for over 15 years before she “got the opportunity to be laid off.” Jenna intentionally uses the word “opportunity” because she chose to view her downsizing as a great chance to decide, as an adult, what she really wanted to do.
Says Jenna, “After I graduated high school, I went right to college, but I never thought about what I really wanted to do with my life.” Now she had the perfect opportunity to do so.
An Opportunity to Choose a New Career Path
“I have three boys, ages 5, 8, and 9 and I was travelling a lot [at my old job],” Jenna told us. “When I got this opportunity, and a great severance package, I gave myself a year to decide what I was going to be when I grew up.”
When she was a child, Jenna had always wanted to be a teacher - but later on, she followed a different career path. With her new opportunity, she decided to go back to her first love, and seriously explore teaching.
When Considering a Career Change, Where to Start?
Before changing careers, Jenna wanted to make sure teaching would be a good fit. She started volunteering at her kids’ school. When she realized how much she enjoyed being at the school, she got a job as a paraeducator to start gaining work experience.
Through her exploration, Jenna found out that she “loved the school vibe.” She discovered, “This is where my heart is. This is where I want to be.”
She knew she was ready for the next step. That’s when she started talking to the principal at the school about getting her teaching degree.
Taking the Next Step
“When I spoke with the principal at the school where I was working about getting my teaching degree, he recommended [StraighterLine Partner] Western Governors University (WGU).” Though Jenna had earned her previous degree at a brick-and-mortar school, she knew she wanted to enroll in something online and competency-based, and the degree program offered at WGU seemed like an ideal fit. But first Jenna wanted to make sure that the degree would enable her to be qualified for teaching jobs in her school district.
“I called human resources at the school district [where I work] and said I was considering going to WGU to get my master’s in teaching, and that I wanted to know if a degree from WGU would enable me to be hired in the district. They told me that they hire WGU grads all the time!”
Choosing WGU’s Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education
After comparing her college options, Jenna chose WGU’s teaching degree program because she saw the school as providing the “fastest and cheapest way of earning a teaching degree,” as well as offering student teachers “the most time in the classroom.”
Jenna plans to continue working full-time as a paraeducator. She knows she is fortunate to have an employer and school who believes in her and is “willing to help her do whatever she needs to do to get her student teaching and observation time in.”
However, before she could officially enroll in WGU’s teaching degree program, she needed to complete several prerequisites, including a couple of humanities and history courses. At first she was concerned about how she was going to get all the courses done with her work and family schedule, but then her WGU advisor recommended completing her courses through StraighterLine.
Getting Ready for a Master’s Degree with StraighterLine
“Before I started taking any classes, my goal was to complete my degree in 18 months,” said Jenna. “I just wanted to knock it out.” After enrolling in three StraighterLine courses, including Introduction to Nutrition, United States History, and Introduction to Communication, she had a reality check. “My goal now is to complete my Master’s in two years.”
“When I started my first StraighterLine class, I realized that taking self-paced courses was going to be a little bit harder than I thought it was going to be. But by the time I enrolled in my third StraighterLine class, I knew exactly what I needed to do to be successful.”
Her strategy for success was all about making a schedule for her course completion goals. “As soon as I enrolled in my third StraighterLine course, I created a whiteboard calendar and put in my goal dates for completing chapters and taking quizzes.” For Jenna, taking self-paced online courses is all about organization, goal-setting, and time management. “I maximized the small chunks of time I had. I’d study at my kids’ soccer practices or at the park while they were playing. I’d take quizzes after my kids went to bed. “
“StraighterLine helped me a ton. I know I’m going to be more successful at WGU because of StraighterLine. Completing StraighterLine courses helped me with learning how to pace myself and be realistic about my degree completion goal.”
Finding An Affordable Way to Change Careers
According to Jenna, “By enrolling in StraighterLine courses first, I knew at the worst I’d be paying just $99/month for the courses I needed rather than paying over $3k. That’s one of the things I liked about StraighterLine; it’s not so financially expensive! The classes are reasonably priced, even cheaper than CLEP.”
Her advice to other career changers? “Don’t get discouraged even if you get behind, you are still one step closer to your goal. Going back to school requires a leap of faith.”
Jenna started her Master of Arts in Teaching Elementary Education (K-8) at WGU in January 2016. Thanks to StraighterLine, she completed the prerequisites she needed to start her degree program and plans on graduating in 2017. Congratulations Jenna!