Angela Rivers grew up plagued with self-doubt and consistently questioned her own academic abilities due to a learning disability coupled with short-term memory impairment. To say the least, school was difficult for her.

She says she remembers being taken to the doctor frequently as a child to address ear infections, which also impacted her hearing. She had regular speech therapy and was enrolled in special education classes for math and language arts. Her challenges persisted for her entire school career.

“Of course, I was not a straight-A student, and I had to work harder than most of the other students,” she recalls. “I did not like school because it was very difficult, and I got sick a lot because of the stress of schoolwork.”

Angela says that even her teachers didn’t anticipate her future would include higher education and said she would be lucky to even graduate from high school. 

“I had those in the education system tell my parents I would be lucky enough to even graduate with a technical certificate,” she says.

Angela says she recognizes the value of a vocational degree or learning a trade and is aware those careers can be quite stable and even occasionally lucrative. However, after trying some vocational programs, she decided it wasn’t what she was looking for in her own life and career. She wanted a college degree. 

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Off to College

Angela felt she had something to prove when she began her college career. 

“I thought, ‘I’ll just go get an associate degree,’” she says. “It was two years, and then I could be proud.”

In 2007, she completed her associate degree at another institution, defying everyone’s expectations and making her the first in her immediate family to earn a college degree.

“It was a really good feeling,” she admits, remembering all of the struggles she had in high school. 

Angela says the biggest difference for her at her community college was the individual attention she received from her instructors. She felt her small community college treated her more like a person than a number, an experience she’s not sure she would have had at a larger university.

“A lot of the teachers really cared,” she says. “They were willing to have after-class hours if you had questions. Having that smaller class helped, too.”

In her associate degree program, Angela was able to take some early childhood education courses, which sparked her interest in a career in education.

Equipped with a new confidence in her academic abilities, Angela began searching for a bachelor’s degree program that would fit her life and meet her needs. She found a program specifically for women that she could attend one day a week, which allowed her to maintain a full-time job. 

“I went there every Saturday,” she recalls. “It was for women of all ages who had things going on during the week. I took two courses every six weeks.”

For nearly two years, Angela spent 12 hours each Saturday attending courses to achieve her bachelor’s degree. Similar to the instructors in her associate degree program, her bachelor’s degree instructors were supportive and understood that the students they taught had specific needs and responsibilities outside of attending class one day a week. She also had small classes of women who all supported each other.

“We were all rooting for each other,” she says.

In 2012, she earned her bachelor’s degree in education and set out to begin her career as an educator.

“I wanted to make a difference in the lives of students who were similar to me in school,” she confirms. “I was fortunate to have a few teachers who helped me along the way.”

Educator Seeks Higher Education

Just before graduation, Angela got a job teaching* kindergarten. Soon she would relocate to Florida, go through the state teaching licensure process, and continue her career. 

Since the start of her career, Angela has taught pre-kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade, as well as specialty courses in art and religion. 

Life was busy, and Angela didn’t even consider the possibility of achieving another degree. Then she thought about her bachelor’s degree experience and realized she had done this before, so perhaps it was feasible for her to advance her education. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Angela was laid off from her job teaching pre-kindergarten, and she began researching master’s degree programs.

“I found UAGC, and I was accepted into the MAED program,” she recalls. “When I received the email that I was accepted, it was one of the best days of my life.”

Though she was thrilled, Angela still found herself with a lot of questions and hesitation during the enrollment process and before she started classes. It was her enrollment advisor, Brittany, who provided the reassurance she needed. 

“I think we were on the phone for two hours,” she admits of her initial conversation. “She took her time. I really felt like she was there taking care of me and helping me figure out what my goal was and what I really wanted to do.” 

After her extensive conversation and career research, Angela decided she would add the specialization in curriculum and instruction to her Master of Arts in Education, hoping to explore an aspect of her career she enjoyed on a deeper level while also opening doors to new opportunities.  

Angela felt strongly this program was for her because of the flexibility she would have attending school entirely online. 

“Obviously, I have deadlines,” she understands. “I can literally be wherever I want to be on a laptop and get my master’s.” 

Angela also took advantage of resources like Grammarly and paper review services through the UAGC Writing Center, which proved valuable to her success. She adds that her mother has also been her proofreader throughout her entire academic career and continued to provide that support throughout Angela’s master’s degree program.

Angela graduated in 2022 with her master’s degree, and she did it with a 4.0 GPA – a feat that seemed out of reach in her younger years.

Onward and Upward

Angela landed a new job as an art teacher while working on her master’s degree, and she says furthering her education was a factor that helped her have a successful interview.

“The principal was impressed that I was in a master’s program,” she says, adding that the topics she was learning in her program helped her provide knowledgeable answers during the interview process.

Angela is still considering what her next chapter will look like. “I’m thinking about being a curriculum specialist or doing wildlife education,” she says. “Wildlife conservation is another passion of mine. I could see myself creating curriculum for schools or maybe museum education.”

While Angela has career aspirations that may take her out of the classroom, she says she never loses sight of the reason she pursued her career in the first place – the students. More specifically, the students who are dealing with similar challenges she dealt with when she was young.

“I wanted to make a difference in the lives of students who were similar to me in school,” she confirms. “I was fortunate to have a few teachers who helped me along the way.”

Further, Angela is glad to have been in the classroom as long as she has been and to have taught in areas that allow her students to simply be kids.

“I love seeing that lightbulb come on,” she beams. “I love being in art because it’s a kind of therapy, and they get to express themselves and just have fun.”

Angela says she knows her classroom experience will be incredibly valuable no matter where her career lands.

“I’ve gained knowledge, skills, and experience that will aid me in both my profession and everyday life,” she says. “This degree will open opportunities for me to pursue my dream career. I want my actions to motivate others to dream, learn, and do more to become more.”


* An online degree from the University of Arizona Global Campus does not lead to immediate teacher licensure in any state. If you want to become a classroom teacher, contact your state’s education authorities prior to enrolling at the University of Arizona Global Campus to determine what state-specific requirements you must complete before obtaining your teacher’s license. 

Certain degree programs may not be available in all states. 

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