Reading Endorsement program comes of age

Monday, April 28, 2008

The first student to finish the reading endorsement program completes her coursework this spring. Joy Beshay’s story and those of two others in the program—Ronda Hurley and Cynthia McGinnis—reveal how Corban’s graduate program in education can be the right fit for all kinds of students.

Joy Beshay is married to an Egyptian man. They live in separate parts of the world right now, but plan to be together this summer. If it was in Egypt, Beshay would happily put her new reading endorsement to work with children playing in foreign sand. But she hopes her husband will come stateside instead, in which case she can use her newly gained endorsement as a stepping stone.

Having graduated from Corban in ’04 with a degree in elementary education, Beshay works as a reading teacher at Miller Elementary in South Salem. She was hired for the job with the understanding that she would get a reading endorsement. At the time, she was not feeling good about the options she’d come across.

“You could do that at Corban,” Beverly Farris, former undergraduate education faculty member at Corban who now supervises student teachers, told her when their paths crossed. Beshay saw it as perfect timing and got started in the endorsement program at Corban the summer of 2007.

“I’ve become more passionate as I’ve worked with kids,” she said about leading small reading groups of first through third graders. “I’m overwhelmed by the issues these kids have in learning to read.”

Not only will the endorsement help in dealing with the issues in her work right now, but she sees it as a good stepping stone toward getting her master’s degree.

“I’ll probably continue with online classes and get an M.Ed. and an ESOL endorsement, too,” predicted Beshay who has learned to balance college classes with being a mom and grandma and holding down a weekend job.

Dr. Sang-Eun Dyer, Director of the Reading Endorsement Program, called Beshay a “good student” and “hard-working”—the kind of student who can return to their school setting and be a good model for other teachers.

“This is my goal, that our students can be leaders and good models, and provide a good support system for classroom teachers in their schools,” said Dyer.

The reading endorsement program prepares teachers to become reading specialists, a title that refers to the person in each school who can lead the reading program, provide assessment and instruction, and show leadership.

That’s the plan for Ronda Hurley, ‘01. She just began the program and does it online. With three small children and working part-time as a Title I Reading Teacher in the Salem-Keizer school district along with tutoring in the Silver Falls schools, the online format works best for her lifestyle. She noted that she still feels a “personal touch” from her instructors.

“I’m not 18—I have a busy family and a busy job,” Hurley said. “I feel supported in that and an understanding that my schooling at this stage is not going to look like it did when I was an undergrad. I know that the directors and professors will go out of their way to ensure that I’m able to complete what I set out to do. I shouldn’t be surprised—it’s what I loved about the school when I started here 10 years ago.”

While she enjoys her work as a reading teacher, Hurley plans to work at least part-time in a reading specialist position—once her children are in school.

Cynthia McGinnis, with 15 years of teaching experience, already works as a reading specialist at Myers Elementary School in Salem. She began there this school year, coming from a charter school where she taught junior high and high school at-risk students—those who are failing in school.

“These kids I’m dealing with now will be the same kids I’d be dealing with as junior high and high school students,” she said. “If they can get turned on to reading now, we can intervene before they get to junior high.”

The endorsement program has given her new methods and updated strategies to accomplish that with her younger students, as well as soothe the burnout she had felt coming from the charter school.

“The teachers have been helpful and encouraging, and I really like the fact that Corban is a Christian school,” said McGinnis, who has taken other graduate courses elsewhere. “I can relax and learn instead of having my guard up to discern every little thing.”

McGinnis came to a concert on campus when she heard that Corban is one of the top ten colleges in the West.* That triggered the decision to finish her reading endorsement at Corban.

As she looks toward finishing the program this fall, McGinnis can’t forget the vision she had for more students in an at-risk school setting. She wonders if God will lead her back to working with older students.

In the meantime, McGinnis has this attitude: “I’m totally open to what God has for me.”

*Corban is ranked fifth in the Best Baccalaureate Colleges, West Region, according to a 2008 America’s Best Colleges study by USNews and World Report.

  • Joy Beshay is the first to complete the reading endorsement program through Corban’s graduate education department this spring.

  • Ronda Hurley balances a busy life with her online studies, work and children (Jack, 6 months, Micah, 3, and Anne, 5).

  • Cynthia McGinnis benefits from reading endorsement program in her current work with at-risk students.

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