Outstanding students plan to pursue excellence in education
Dec. 16, 2017 at 10:30 p.m.
When Melody Schluer decided to pursue her Master of Education in special education, several of her friends and colleagues suggested she apply at the University of Houston-Victoria.
"Several of them had attended UHV before or were finishing up their degrees," Schluer said. "They told me about their good experiences and encouraged me to apply."
Schluer, of Katy, recently was named the UHV School of Education, Health Professions and Human Development Fall 2017 Outstanding Graduate Student.
Meagan Alex, of Edna, is the school's Outstanding Undergraduate Student.
Each semester, professors from UHV's three schools select outstanding graduates to be honored during commencement.
They graduated on Friday.
"Melody and Meagan are excellent students who showcase exactly what educators should be," said Fred Litton, dean of the school. "They have been tireless in working toward their goals, and I am proud to see them receive this acknowledgement. They truly represent the kind of educators UHV hopes to create and encourage."
When Schluer first applied for admission at UHV, she considered the master's in special education with a concentration in applied behavior analysis. But then she found out about the school's grant from the U.S. Department of Education that would pay graduate tuition for students pursuing a concentration in autism spectrum disorders. Schluer works as a teacher in the Katy school district's Behavior Transition Program, and many of her students struggle with autism, so the program was a good option for her.
"I've worked with special education students for five years before coming to UHV," she said. "I felt drawn to it, and I love working with these students to help them improve their social and academic situations. I feel so lucky because I'm doing exactly what I want to, and these kids are teaching me something new every day."
Schluer appreciated the flexibility of UHV's online courses. They offered a highly interactive learning environment that included great feedback from faculty members and her fellow students, she said.
"Every week led to some new 'ah-ha' moment for me," she said. "We constantly were pushed and challenged to look into how we could apply the knowledge we gained in our classes to our everyday work environments. I've done some behavior assessments in the past, but these courses gave me a new level of understanding."
Schluer plans to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. That will allow her to work with students in private therapy settings.
Alex has loved working with children ever since she was in high school. She will use her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in early childhood to sixth grade to work as a pre-kindergarten teacher for Edna school district.
"At first, I thought about teaching high school, and I did a lot of substitute teaching in Victoria, Edna and Industrial independent school districts," Alex said. "After substituting in high school, junior high and elementary, I decided elementary education was the best fit for me."
Alex chose to attend UHV after receiving her associate degree at Victoria College because the university is close to her home and family. In addition, the Victoria area felt safe and welcoming. That atmosphere also was prevalent at UHV, where she felt close to almost everyone in the education school, she said.
Now, as Alex finishes her student teaching, she is excited to use everything she has learned to help her students grow and excel. She has been a student teacher for both fifth grade and kindergarten. She was nervous when she first went to the kindergarten class, but the students were excited and quickly connected with her.
"After I finished that portion of my student teaching, they would run up to me in the halls and tell me how much they missed me," Alex said. "They even showed me journals they made to explain how much they had learned. It was really exciting to see how such a short time among these children can have such a big effect on their learning."
One of the many lessons she learned from UHV was the importance of being connected to her fellow teachers, Alex said. Not only do teachers work together to plan lessons and curriculum for rotating classes and daily activities, they also can provide moral support and share stories of their own experiences to help others face similar situations.
As the next step in her career approaches, Alex is grateful for the support she received from her UHV professors and her own family.
"My parents have been there for me at every step since I was little," Alex said. "They've always encouraged me to further my education. I'm also thankful for my sisters' support and the opportunity to help my younger sister when she was in high school. I learned a lot while helping her out."
Schluer also expressed her gratitude for the support she received as she worked toward expanding her knowledge to help students with special needs.
"My family has been so supportive," she said. "They've pushed me to succeed and were there to remind me how close I was to reaching this goal. I also have a group of friends who have been very understanding and encouraging during this time."