NSU helps teachers earn a special education master’s degree without leaving the classroom

Young woman teacher sitting on her classroom desk holding a sign with her name on it

MILBANK, S.D. – After completing her student teaching experience, Northern State University alumna Katie Sinner realized she had a passion for working with students with disabilities.

When she decided to pursue a master’s degree in special education, she looked at different options, but ultimately chose Northern.

“The faculty in the School of Education are truly the best,” said Sinner, who graduated in May 2020 with her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. “The faculty members get to know you on a personal level, truly care about their students, and want to see all of their students succeed in the education field.”

Now, Sinner is working as Special Education Resource Teacher at Milbank Middle School while completing the NSU M.S.Ed. in Special Education program. Throughout the program, she said, her professors have been flexible and great to work with.

She lives two hours from Aberdeen and works as a full time teacher, but she said professors are always willing to record their daytime classes on Zoom so she can watch them after work. She has also been able to attend evening classes via Zoom.

“I would recommend this program to any educator that is looking to get their master’s in special education,” Sinner said. “The content that I have learned has helped me grow as a new special education teacher and an overall educator.”

Milbank School District Special Services Director Kris Evje says of the program and Sinner, “We have been so fortunate to have Ms. Sinner work as a part of our team and have appreciated the flexibility and preparation Northern State has provided her.”

Dr. Cheryl Wold, NSU Graduate Coordinator for Special Education, said it’s been a pleasure working with Sinner—Northern’s first graduate student in this new master’s degree program—and the Milbank School District.

“Katie’s site mentor and her building principal have provided an exceptional environment to support her as she works full time and attends graduate classes,” Wold said. “Through this graduate program, Northern plans to assist other school districts who are searching for special education teachers to fill vacancies in their schools.”

Sinner said Northern’s faculty members have been the best part about studying at NSU, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. “All of the professors at Northern in the School of Education are passionate and knowledgeable about the content that they teach.”

Originally from Webster, Sinner said she always wanted a career that involved helping others. She started as a nursing major, then pursued her dental assisting degree before realizing education was what she was meant to do.

“I had some of the best teachers throughout my years as a student at Webster Area. They were caring, helpful and passionate about their careers and helping students,” Sinner said. “I wanted to have this impact on people in a career, which is why I chose to teach. I couldn’t imagine myself in another profession.”   

Now, she said the best part of her job is creating relationships with students.

“I have always believed that relationships come before teaching content,” Sinner said. “Watching my students become excited about understanding new content and being so proud of themselves is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching. I love watching my students grow in so many ways; academically, personally and socially.”

To learn more about master’s programs at Northern, visit NSU Graduate Studies.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a student-centered institution that provides an outstanding educational experience, preparing students through the liberal arts and professional education for their future endeavors. A regional university, Northern offers rigorous academics; diverse civic, social and cultural opportunities; and a commitment to building an inclusive environment for all points of view. Northern also offers a broad-based athletics program, sponsoring 15 NCAA Division II intercollegiate varsity sports that compete in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NSIC). The university strives to enrich the community through partnerships such as its Educational Impact Campaign, which opened a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; new athletic and recreation fields; and an on-campus regional sports complex. With the $55 million campaign, NSU has been the recipient of more than $150 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions