Harper balances teaching and earning a Master’s degree

Lauren Harper is dressed in her favorite lab coat and goggles standing next to her desk, with her favorite palm tree in the background. Harper never misses an opportunity to decorate her classroom with plenty of marine life and other decor. (Photo courtesy of Francis Fleming)

All high schoolers know the struggles and hard work that goes into being a student: the hours of homework and classwork required to get A’s. However, only a select few people move all the way up to graduate school and earn a masters degree in various different subjects. Harper is one of those select few that chose to earn their masters degree. For the past two years, Harper has been working extremely hard to earn a master’s degree in science education. Harper is also a chemistry and a marine biology teacher at Leesville Road High School.

Being a graduate student and a teacher really takes a toll on Harpers schedule. “I’m in class from 4:30 to 7:30 after teaching all day,” said Harper.. She wakes up at the crack of dawn, teaches for seven hours, and then has to go to NC State for another three hours for graduate school, and on top of all of that she has to grade hours of papers and homework. 

However, the demands of being both a student and a teacher becomes overwhelming and difficult to maintain control over. “Sometimes I have to put teaching on pause to be a grad student, and sometimes I have to put being a grad student on pause in order to be a teacher,” said Harper. 

She had to skip class on August 22 in order to attend the Leesville open house and fulfill her responsibilities as a teacher. Such sacrifices are not uncommon for Harper, who often finds herself struggling to find time to study for graduate school and grade papers. Even though Harper seems to have an infinite flow of work to do, she maintains a positive attitude. 

Harper believes that graduate school is making her a better teacher, “I like to apply a lot of what I learn in grad school to my classroom,” said Harper. 

Graduate school is giving Harper a deeper understanding of the subjects in chemistry and marine biology, which allows her to explain the subjects better to her students. Harper also believes graduate school gives her a better understanding of the kids in her classes. “(graduate school has) made me more cognizant of how I approach my students,” said Harper. “(It) reminds me how stressful school is for kids.” Graduate school has allowed Harper to reflect on how hard and stressful school can be and is reminding Harper to make sure students understand the subjects taught in class before throwing more stuff at them. 

Even though graduate school is challenging, she believes it has made her a better teacher and further developed her understanding of how to teach.


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