Unemployed new mom Amanda Lienhardt, 30, found herself looking into online teaching certificate programs, months after her short-term contract teaching at a small school finished.
Despite holding a degree in elementary education, it was hard for her to get a foothold in the wavering job market, and her experience in that temporary job left her reeling.
"The way things ended with my last position just made me look at myself as a teacher, and ask 'How can I improve, and become a better teacher for my students?'" she says.
"It made me want to pursue my education as a teacher, as well, and find out how to best improve my work with my students."
After hunting for jobs with no success, she instead began seeking out graduate scholarships for teachers to move her career forward. (Those interested should apply for a Get Educated scholarship before the March 15th and October 15th deadlines.)
With a 19-month-old son to tend to, and no immediate family nearby, Lienhardt wasn't sure a full-time masters program was the right move.
"Currently my husband and I live in rural Indiana, so any [brick-and-mortar] school options would be quite a drive," she says.
"In addition to working, and being a mother, and a pastor's wife, that is just not an option. I want to be able to take care of, and play with, my son," she says.
With a bachelors degree under her belt, she wanted to move on, but had some major limitations. Besides being a busy mom, she also works part-time as a substitute teacher, and is an active community member.
"I wanted a graduate-level program because I wanted to pursue my education without doing a full masters, so I looked into the graduate-level certificate program," she says.
An online teaching certificate may even pay off better than a masters degree. In a shaky economy, the earning potential of a masters in education can be short-circuited, since many municipalities must hire on the cheap.
By pursuing a teaching certificate online, she would also have room to grow: All credits earned could later be applied to a full degree at her chosen online college – Ball State University.
"The only viable option was an online education," she says. "It was the only way I could go back, and I was ready to go back."
Since she was young, Lienhardt had been interested in foreign languages and customs.
Her family exposed her at a young age to many cultures, as a host family for foreign exchange students. "I grew up in a home where my parents really respected diversity," she says. "We always had students in and out of our house through exchange programs."
Having been raised in Champagne, Illinois, a Big Ten college town, attending a well-respected university was important to her, and easy to do using Get Educated's online degree comparison search.
But far more important than her pick of school might have been her super-savvy choice in an online teaching certificate program – English as a New Language.
It's more commonly called "English as a Second Language," or ESL, but the role is the same: Delivering language skills to a rapidly growing U.S. population of foreign-born residents.
As a career move, it's a golden needle in the haystack of possible teaching certifications.
Currently, Get Educated's database lists 117 graduate certificates in teaching, but only eight are in this immensely valuable area.
Why is ESL such a smart move?
Lienhardt isn't bilingual, but the skills she's learning will enable her to work effectively with students of any age who are non-English speakers.
"A lot of the techniques used for teaching ESL students are beneficial in general education as well," she says.
Aside from the demands on her time, Lienhardt's interest in online ESL coursework fits her needs as part of the leadership in her church community.
"I knew it was a high-need area, and that it would be very beneficial no matter where my husband and I end up," she said. "Whether we stay in this area or go into the mission field."
Even from overseas she could finish and use her degree for field work as a missionary – though she ideally sees working in a classroom setting with English language learners, or "as a regular teacher in a classroom helping students obtain their potential, regardless of language barriers."
Online study has added an unexpected boost to her learning, too.
"I've done some online researching with my students, and now, having to do this for my course, it's changed my thinking about how I would do things online with my students," she says.
"It's showing me how I can change assignments depending on what technology is available in my future classrooms," she adds.
She's also benefited from having coursework available to her at anytime on the web.
By shopping around on the Get Educated website, Lienhardt was able to find a teaching certificate program that fit her life, but also fit into a budget.
The average cost of a full masters in education is $15,714, according to our affordable online degrees ranking.
In contrast, the average price of an ESL teaching certificate online is $9,534, potentially thousands of dollars in savings.
Lienhardt saved even more on her program by applying for graduate teaching scholarships, including the semi-annual scholarships offered by Get Educated.
Get Educated offers $1,000 undergraduate and graduate scholarships for teachers and other professionals for distance learning assistance in the spring and fall.
"The Get Educated scholarship has allowed me to go back to school knowing that I'm not putting my family in a financial bind," says Lienhardt.
The deadlines for these ongoing scholarship awards are March 15 and October 15. All those interested should apply for a Get Educated scholarship before the deadline.
The awards can be used for any level of academic study, including bachelors or masters degree programs, or undergraduate or graduate certificates, such as Lienhardt's online teaching certificate.
Online College Scholarship Resources