The Adult Student: Why the Four-Week Format Worked for Me
Tyler Rex landed his dream job after graduating as an adult student from National University with a master’s degree in education. He attributes his success to the support of his family and co-workers, a lot of hard work, and the unique four-week format of National University’s online degree programs.
“I’m a teacher,” says Rex. “I teach health and careers at Esperanza High School, Anaheim, California and I also coach volleyball there. I went to Esperanza as a student and played on the volleyball team there, so it’s a lot of fun to be back there teaching and coaching.”
Teaching is something that runs in Rex’s family. His grandfather was a teacher, his mother is a school principal, and his aunt also teaches. Despite being surrounded by a family of educators, the idea of becoming a teacher himself didn’t occur until later in life.
“I had a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Fullerton in Liberal studies,” says Rex. “It was a pretty broad degree. I started my family early and had a few other careers.”
Following graduation, Rex worked in the sign industry, fabricating signs; the insurance industry, selling insurance to state farms; and for a large cleaning supply company, looking after accounts in Las Vegas hotels and restaurants making sure their dishwashing machines worked properly.
“They were jobs that I didn’t know if I would like or love but I just ended up in them,” says Rex. “I just couldn’t see myself doing it for the long haul. Now I’m in a profession where I could imagine doing this for the rest of my working life and even through retirement.”
I Want to Teach
Rex’s epiphany that he wanted to teach came to him while attending the funeral of a close family friend who was also a teacher.
“Being at her funeral with so many other teachers and hearing what an influence she was, and learning about the impact that a teacher can have was overwhelming to me,” says Rex. “If I could just have a sliver of the impact that she had, that is a career that I want to pursue.”
Rex reached out to his old volleyball coach at Esperanza and asked him how he could become a teacher. Through this connection, Rex was encouraged to start subbing at the school and also assist in coaching the school’s volleyball team. It was during this time he was introduced to National University where he would eventually study for his Californian Standards for Health credential, the CSET exam, and master’s degree in education.
Flexible Degree Courses
The flexibility National University’s online degree programs offered Rex as an adult student helped him juggle his work and family commitments along with his studies.
“For me, National was kind of a no brainer,” says Rex. “I had a family and I had to work. I was subbing while I was taking my classes. So I could be subbing a class, getting the students going on something and then log-in to my National portal and get going on my homework and discussion boards — so I could double up on working and making money while I was going to school. If I chose a different school, I probably wouldn’t have had the flexibility to do that.”
The cost of going back to school was a big consideration for Rex and his family.
“I had a lot of bills and a lot of expenses,” says Rex. “Going back to school is expensive but the fact that I could work several jobs while doing it off-set the costs. Had I not been able to work while I was going to school, the debt would have just been massive.”
According to Rex, the challenge of balancing work, family, and study, is a well-trodden path at National University where the students are generally older than in a typical brick and mortar university setting. National’s online courses and unique four-week class format helps adult students find greater balance and ensure other areas of life are not neglected.
“Pretty much all my classes, from my credential to my master’s in education at National, were online,” says Rex. “It was a little bit different. I had to be a little more focused while logging in and commenting on people’s posts and being part of the interaction.”
Rex insists that just because a class is online, it doesn’t make it any easier or less engaging than taking a class in a traditional university setting.
“It was a lot of work but all my teachers and my classmates were so professional and helpful,” says Rex. “We could email each other and because they were adult students, it wasn’t like when I was in college the first time around, trying to do a group project with somebody who didn’t really care about the class.”
Through the intensive, group work, Rex was able to build friendships with his fellow students. This was something he never expected to happen in an online class.
“As the classes went on I found several people that were in my classes every month because they were on the same track that I was,” says Rex. “I’d comment on their posts and see how they were doing.”
Making new friends in the online environment is an important aspect of student life at National University.
“You know we were all a little bit nervous,” admits Rex. “None of us had been through this path before and so reaching out, introducing yourself and asking for help is sometimes scary, but knowing that we are all in the same boat here and we are all trying to do the same thing, it was really cool to meet new people.”
The Four-Week Format
National University’s four-week class format, which allows students to take just one class at a time as opposed to four or five classes over a semester, helped keep Rex on track with his studies.
“I really appreciated the four-week format because I’m already juggling life, family, work, church, and other obligations,” says Rex. “I had two jobs, sometimes three jobs, so it already felt like I was pulled in a million directions. I cannot imagine having all those obligations and having four other classes as additional obligations.
The four-week format allowed Rex to focus on a single topic and not become overwhelmed with everything else going on in his life.
“It was overwhelming when I was in college and studying for my bachelor’s,” says Rex. “I had a job and a wife, I didn’t have kids yet — but I had four to five classes. Going from that to one class at a time, I could really focus on absorbing all of that class and not being spread too thin and having to compartmentalize even more classes. Looking at where I’d be without this format is pretty scary.”
The flexibility of online learning at National University helped Rex work his way around some of the challenges of becoming qualified to teach.
“It took me a little time to pass the CSETs,” says Rex. “One of the good things about National is that I was able to take all of my master’s classes before I finished my credentials. So once I finally passed the CSET I had already taken my master’s classes and my credentials classes. That put me at a huge advantage because as soon as I was able to graduate and apply for jobs I already had a master’s degree. You can teach with a bachelor’s degree but they really like you to get your master’s.”
Great Things Happen at National University
It wasn’t just the convenience of online learning that attracted Rex to National University. While discussing his career options with teachers at Esperanza, it was clear that National had a great reputation in the teaching profession.
“My colleagues were all very familiar with the online degree programs at National,” says Rex. “National is the number one teacher credentialer in California. We have a lot of teachers at Esperanza who finished their master’s and got their credential through National. My principal knew that great things happen at National.”
National’s reputation, along with Rex’s determination to succeed in the teaching profession, all stood in his favor for landing his dream job. This is something that Rex never takes for granted.
“It was truthfully a leap of faith,” says Rex. “I got credentialed in a subject where there are not a lot of jobs. There is one health teacher for every 10 language teachers. So things went really well for me. I was in the right place at the right time. I created my resume every day by how I performed at the school where I was subbing and there was an opening at the right time. I earned that but I was also lucky.”
So, why did Rex chose a teaching path that was more narrow than others?
“I think it just aligns with a lot of my values in life,” says Rex. “helping young people become aware of how to lead a healthy life. This was something that I valued while growing up and I thought was really important to pass on. I’m passionate about teaching health. I think that comes out pretty clear to my students. They deserve to have a passionate teacher and not someone who is just going through the motions.”
The Future of Teaching
Rex is very happy with his career at Esperanza but that doesn’t mean he is not open to other opportunities in the field of education.
“I love where I am and what I teach,” says Rex. “I’m at a school with a great demographic, great leadership. I’m passionate about what I teach. I would love to be in this setting and coach volleyball and teach health for the next 20 years. I already have a master’s, so I plan on continuing to grow as a teacher and become a better teacher every year.”
Rex is particularly interested in extending his classroom skills into the realm of online education.
“I’m currently applying to teach online,” says Rex. “My master’s is in e-teaching and learning so I think I can manage to teach one more class online.”
Rex believes his experience as an online student at National will be highly beneficial to his students.
“When I’m applying for these online teaching positions and they see National, they know that I’m familiar with the online teaching format,” says Rex. “I’m also using an e-learning management system in my actual classroom of students. They are working on things online in my classroom and they can work on it at home, so it’s becoming a hybrid type of classroom course and it makes it really flexible and convenient for the students.”
According to Rex, this hybrid approach prepares high school students for life in college where online learning is increasingly becoming the norm.
“It is a little bit different but we do try to help them be college-ready and a lot of colleges are using e-learning systems,” says Rex. “I think it is my job as a high school teacher to help my students prepare for college, and all of their college classes are going to have some kind of online component. Whether they are fully online, a hybrid or only in a physical classroom, they are still going to have an online portal.”
Rex insists it’s an exciting time to be in education.
“It’s exciting to me because this wasn’t here when I was a student,” says Rex. “There wasn’t that flexibility of having hybrid classes or taking some of my classes only online. I think for learners nowadays, these kids growing up with technology, we can provide them better education by allowing this flexibility.”
Another aspect of online learning is that it can create opportunities for students who might not thrive in the traditional classroom setting.
“The classroom environment is not beneficial for everyone,” says Rex. “It’s exciting to know that more people are going to have the opportunity to receive a good education, potentially take more classes, and then hopefully build a better, more educated society.”
Having the ability to teach online, Rex is able to maximize his earning potential while maintaining a good work/life balance.
“People talk about how teachers aren’t paid well and that’s true,” says Rex. “but I’m also coaching so there is income there and I’m also going to add teaching online so that’s more income. And it’s still going to remain flexible so I can still take time off with my family.”
In the long-term, Rex believes online teaching will see him well into his retirement.
“Maybe 10 to 20 years down the road, I’ll just teach online,” says Rex. “We’ll see what education looks like in 10 years but as of now, I cannot imagine myself leaving this school.”
Rex also has his eye on a potential career at National University.
“I would love to teach for National,” says Rex. “I have a friend whose mum teaches at National and she is retired, so it’s a great way to use her experience and stay engaged but also have the flexibility of retiring and being able to spend time with your grandchildren or whatever else you have to do.”
Spread the Word
Rex is cognizant of the advantages he had when he decided to enter the teaching profession. His family and their wider network of colleagues and friends in education were able to offer the support and advice he needed to make the most of his opportunity.
So what insight would Rex offer someone considering a career in education who doesn’t have these connections?
“I was very lucky, I had a lot of ‘ins’,” says Rex. “The recommendation I would give them is to create those ‘ins’ by subbing and finding some other school activity to be part of like coaching. There are all kinds of things that you can do in schools while you are going to National.”
Rex would also highlight many of the benefits he has personally enjoyed working as a teacher.
“I would talk about my story, what inspired me to be a teacher and what it has allowed me to do,” says Rex. “It has allowed me to be part of a great community that’s always learning, always trying to be better, and work in an environment where the people you work with are on a similar path of education and challenging themselves.”
The benefits extend well beyond the workplace.
“It has also allowed me to spend more time with my family,” says Rex. “I’ve just had six weeks off during the summer and I went to family reunions, and I had a big road trip with my wife and my two sons — so I recommend the profession.”
Are You Inspired to Make a Positive Change?
If you are inspired to make a positive change in your life, the flexible degree programs from National University can create an opportunity for adult students to take that leap of faith and lead to a challenging and rewarding profession.
Taking the first steps towards a new career or personal and professional advancement is easier than you might think. Use this checklist on our website and complete the form on the page to request more information to start your journey as an adult student at National University.