Pictured is, front row from left, Sarah Hoffman, Amy Gardner, Adrianna Bagby, Shari Miller and Melissa Gehman; and back row from left, Newt Starrett, Bethany Stabo, Elisabeth Pipkin, Austin Wenger and Matthew Dresslaer.

Ten Hollister teachers graduated from Lindenwood University with a master’s in education.

“It’s a really neat program, it helps teachers get their advanced degree, it helps our students because when students have more successful teachers and more educated teachers they perform better and it helps our district overall with retaining those great teachers,” said Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Sandy Leech. “It’s just positives all around from our perspective.”

Sarah Hoffman, Amy Gardner, Adrianna Bagby, Shari Miller, Melissa Gehman, Newt Starrett, Bethany Stabo, Elisabeth Pipkin, Austin Wenger and Matthew Dresslaer graduated in Hollister’s second Master’s Cohort Program through their partnership with Lindenwood University.

According to Leech, Hollister schools originally started looking into the master’s degree program for two reasons: No.1 was teacher quality and professional development and No.2 was teacher retention. With this program, the teachers can earn their master’s degree free of charge with the agreement to remain with the Hollister school district for at least five years.

“We really wanted to give our teachers the opportunity to get an advanced degree,” said Leech. 

“Since teacher quality is the No.1 indicator for whether students will be successful, that’s our biggest priority. It’s a great opportunity for professional development as well as ongoing education.

“The other reason we were originally thinking about starting (the program) was teacher retention. Research tells us that if we can get teachers to stay around five years, the likelihood of them staying longer than that is really high. So part of the master’s degree program is they sign a five-year contract to stay with the district, and we actually pay for their ongoing professional development and their master’s degree.”

Teachers have to go through a competitive application process where up to 10 teachers are then selected to participate in the program. 

Factors such as, do they participate in extracurricular activities, are they on committees, have they been on a lot of committees, are they involved and are they teachers that want to be a Hollister Tiger, are some of the things looked at by the teacher selection committee who view the anonymously submitted applications, according to Leech.

“When they are enrolled in the program, we offer classes on campus, so it’s also logistically feasible for them,” said Leech. “They don’t have to drive a long way, they don’t have to go anywhere else. We offer them after school on our own campus.

“The other benefit (is) the classes are taught by administrators in our district. A lot of those classes that they take were really purposeful in making sure that everything that they do in those classes tie directly into our district initiatives. So, it’s really applicable, it’s really targeted to our own community in Hollister, our student population in Hollister, and it can be really personalized to meet the needs of the teachers.”

According to Leech, Hollister schools are seeing a lot of success and positive results from this program.

“It’s been a very successful program, our teachers are really, really enjoying it and our principals and administrators have told our team that they can tell a difference in the teachers that have gone through it,” said Leech.

“All the research points to the most successful students having the most highly effective teachers. Our teachers are our No.1 most important thing when it comes to student success. We really want to invest the time and energy to help them grow and help them be the best that they can be. 

“Our teachers work very, very hard, and we feel it’s very important to help to continue helping them grow.”

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