Setting aside her 15-page research paper, social studies teacher Stefanie Boettcher exhales, eager to take a much-anticipated break after a work-filled week. She visits Big Softee, an ice cream shop, with her brother for a deserving treat, proud of being one step closer to receiving her master’s degree.
On top of her bachelor’s degree in history focused on European history, Boettcher enrolled in an online program this past fall to work toward a master’s degree in American history from Pace University. Tailored specifically to history teachers, the program requires taking 10 different classes, a final research essay, and a maintained B-average grade.
“A typical week will include a recorded lecture, some kind of writing assignment, and readings from the course books,” Boettcher said. “I took two classes for my first semester on top of teaching a full load of courses. It was quite the adjustment, but I kept my master’s work strictly on the weekends or after 3:30 on weekdays. Compartmentalizing was my friend.”
With one semester of the program completed already, Boettcher continues to learn while simultaneously teaching her own students. She finds herself weaving in new ideas and revelations from courses on topics like the Enlightenment in America into her teaching.
“I am more aware of newer opinions on historical events and subjects that I can bring to my lessons and distill to the students,” Boettcher said. “My program also emphasizes historical context and historiography, which is analyzing how history is written. I am going to try to incorporate more of this in my history classes going forward because it is a valuable skill to have for students going into college.”
Inspired by various past teachers and her aunt who earned a graduate degree, Boettcher always knew that she wanted to pursue a higher education from a young age. Regardless of her numerous passions, her love for history has remained unwavering, and she hopes to look into teaching at community colleges in the future.
“When I was younger, I had all sorts of aspirations—news anchor, film critic, politician, ambassador, and, finally, teacher,” Boettcher said. “The one constant was that I would get a history degree when I went to college. It was my number one goal since early elementary. Mr. Williams at Alhambra High inspired me to be a high school teacher, using my degree to teach students history in an engaging way, mixing humor with knowledge.”
While having to write two 15-page papers every month is strenuous, Boettcher finds satisfaction in writing history research papers like she did in college. She understands the toll that comes with pursuing a higher education and encourages everyone to move at their own pace with an open mind.
“I advise my students to take one thing, class, and day at a time,” Boettcher said. “Don’t think about all the stuff you have to do; think about one of the things you have to do, finish it, and then think about another thing. We are in a pandemic, and we need to be kind to ourselves. And if you do decide to enter higher education, give it a real chance…but if higher learning is not in the cards right now, try again later.”