Although Verena Berthiaume had some teaching experience in her homeland of Argentina, she went all in on the profession once she had children in the United States.
“I became interested in their education,” she said. “I saw some gaps. I said, ‘If I can go into the field and prepare myself with those tools and strategies, I can make a difference not only for my children but for other children, too.'”
Twenty years later, Berthiaume still thrives on that principle. She graduated from the online Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Early Childhood Education program at Worcester State University in May 2022.
“It was an excellent program,” she said. “My journey to earn this degree was incredible. I am not only a better educator, but I am also a better individual.
“The professors at Worcester State are knowledgeable and dedicated. They also made themselves available to us. They offered their support and guidance. I wanted to improve my education and go full time in the field with the master’s degree.”
Berthiaume teaches middle school Spanish at St. Joseph School, and she is also a Spanish family liaison at Oxford Public Schools. Both are in Massachusetts.
She and her husband, Alan, have four children: Kylie (16), Natalie (14), Sophia (11) and Michael (9). For Berthiaume, the ability to earn a degree online was essential.
“One of the advantages of Worcester State is that it is flexible,” she said. “I was able to do it on my own time. I like also the fact that we had collaborative work. I learned from other colleagues, and they learned from me.
“We shared our expertise and experiences. We were all from different backgrounds and had different roles in different schools. That was very productive. The other advantage is having a master’s degree in 14 months.”
Before teaching, Berthiaume was on a much different career trajectory in her hometown of Mendoza, Argentina. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in tourism from Universidad Champagnat in 1995.
“I had some teaching experience before I got married and came to the United States,” she said. “I had to go through the process again when I got here. I started teaching in the U.S. in 2002.”
Berthiaume believes that Worcester State University makes earning an online degree manageable for students from any place across the globe.
“Being a student in a different country and having English as a second language can be a challenge,” she said. “One of the things I like about the professors is that they’re understanding. I was able to express myself without feeling like I was sounding unprofessional. That was also valuable.
“I know other people from other countries who want an education but might hesitate because they don’t speak English. You can do it.”
Research and Evaluation and Advanced Foundations of Education were Berthiaume’s two favorite courses in the online M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education curriculum.
“Both of them were great,” she said. “I especially enjoyed going into the field and doing research.”
Berthiaume also appreciated the support of the faculty members and staff at Worcester State during her tenure as an online student.
“I am 50 years old, so it’s not always easy to navigate the internet,” she said. “They offered guidance to navigate the content in each class.
“They had multiple resources. I had to contact them a few times. They always responded in a timely manner. That’s important when you are online.”
Lancer for Life
During her time as an online student through graduation day, Berthiaume had a lot of encouragement from her loved ones. She is the first person in her immediate family to earn a master’s degree.
“They were excited and supportive,” she said. “You can’t achieve a master’s degree without the support of your family and your friends. You need that network supporting you.
“I was chosen to carry the flag at the commencement ceremony. I graduated with a 4.0 GPA…It was a lot of work but rewarding. It was worth it.”
Berthiaume has some advice for potential students in the online M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education program: “I would tell them to not be afraid, and to do it. At Worcester State, they will receive the support that they need and the knowledge that they need to be successful educators.”
With a master’s degree under her belt, Berthiaume hopes to have her own early childhood classroom soon. But, no matter what happens, she will continue to try to make a difference whenever possible.
“One of the reasons I chose early childhood was because I thought the early years of a child are crucial to have a strong foundation,” she said. “I am coming out of the program with tools and strategies to help students, along with new techniques that are more up-to-date and applicable.
“I can put them into practice in my classroom and see the difference. I have the tools to do that now. I know this degree will help open up opportunities.”