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May 15, 2018
Michelle Geeting reached a goal she set for herself 20 years ago when she crossed the commencement stage at Northwest Missouri State University, completing her pursuit of a master’s degree in instructional technology this spring.
A science teacher at Nodaway-Holt High School in Graham, Missouri, she is a 39-year-old single mom with 12-year-old and 13-year-old daughters. She coaches cheerleading in addition to serving as a junior class sponsor at Nodaway-Holt and on a district leadership team. But she refused to let her teaching obligations or commitment to her family suffer as she furthered her education.
“I’m super busy and trying to juggle everything has been a task for me,” she said. “To be able to be done and to graduate as quickly as I have been able to with keeping my GPA intact has been quite the accomplishment.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a science emphasis at another state university in 2011, Geeting wanted to continue learning new skills that could help her become a better educator and advance her career. She looked to Northwest and pursued her master’s degree online while she continued teaching full-time.
“This program has given me so many tools to help my kids, to reach my kids, to better understand how to use the technology in a positive way but also how my kids think different because they’ve grown up in a technology world,” she said. “I have to be able to keep up with how their brains function, with how they learn and what they need to be successful, because the jobs that we had when we were in high school are going to be completely different than what’s out there in even five years. So to better prepare my kids, I feel like I have so many more tools in my toolbox that I wouldn’t have had without this program.”
Geeting also wanted to be a role model for some of her students who didn’t recognize college as an option for them to continue their education.
“With my students being from this area I wanted them to see firsthand that ‘My teachers are going to college and teaching us. I can manage to go to college after I’m done (with high school),’” she said. “I wanted to further my career, but I wanted to be an example for some of my students. They didn’t think they could juggle it. Seeing me do it, I’m very open with my kids about, ‘Hey guys, you have homework, I have homework. If I can do it and raise two kids, you can finish your science homework.’”
Until pursuing her master’s degree, Geeting had been unfamiliar with the Northwest campus, its faculty and programs. She says now she’s found a home at the University.
“It’s the place where I go now for my professional gathering place, for meeting other teachers, bouncing ideas, that springboard for thought,” she said. “It’s kind of a cohort of support that I wasn’t anticipating having after I graduated. A lot of the professors at Northwest really care about where I’m going. I’m super excited to be part of the alumni that come out of there.”
Professor of Computer Science and Information Dr. Nancy Zeliff became a motherly figure as Geeting’s advisor in her academic pursuit.
“You talk with your mom about everything, and she’s kind of that person for me,” Geeting said. “I don’t feel like I have to sugar coat much I need to say. Sometimes you have to let your guard down and say, ‘Here’s what I’m struggling with,’ and that was good for me because sometimes I think as professional students we’re afraid to look vulnerable in front of our professors. I think that’s the value of being a student, is learning through that path, and she guided our learning versus ‘Here’s the right way, wrong way or my way.’ As a student I valued that.”
Said Zeliff, “I love how she is empowering her daughters through her perseverance and hard work. It’s evident in Michelle’s assignments for the varied classes she’s had with me that she loves teaching and seeks to lead her students to success and empower them as she does with her daughters.”
Setting goals – and investing the time and effort to complete them – was an attitude that Geeting’s parents instilled in her. Using that example, Geeting is advancing her professional knowledge and teaching her children to do the same.
“To be able to have that experience and to show my kids that perseverance is key and so important, I’m beyond words excited,” Geeting said.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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