North Carolina teacher earns master's degree online at Penn State

December 13, 2012

Tonia Bauer is using knowledge learned online through a Penn State World Campus master's degree program to help improve her fourth-graders' reading abilities

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Before Tonia Bauer of Hickory, N.C., enrolled in the Penn State online master's degree in curriculum and instruction – emphasis in children's literature, about half of her fourth-grade students passed reading tests. Two years later, 78 percent of her students are passing reading. The reason for the improvement, Bauer said: "I am a better reading teacher because of my experience at Penn State." She will graduate Dec. 22.

"Reading was a problem in my class," said Bauer, who teaches at Southwest Elementary School, part of Hickory Public Schools. "I have a very diverse population of students. They come into my class with different reading levels." Bauer wanted to help her students, so she researched master's degree programs and chose Penn State College of Education's program, which is delivered online through Penn State World Campus.

"I learned a lot about children's literature, which I have used in my classroom to help my students focus on what is important about what we are reading. My students can now describe the setting of a story, identify the theme and discuss character traits," said Bauer, who appreciated being able to earn a master's degree at her own pace and at convenient times.

This year, Bauer was chosen as a finalist for the Wells Fargo Outstanding Educator award. She received $1,000 to use for a multiculturalism project. "I have a passion for promoting multiculturalism," said Bauer, who was born in Grenada in the Caribbean. She met and married her husband, a Peace Corps volunteer, in Grenada and moved to the United States eight years ago. They have two daughters.

Bauer is using ideas from her Penn State faculty members and what she learned in her courses to plan "a multicultural week of celebration where the backgrounds of our students can be appreciated and understood. I am passionate about making children believe in themselves." The Jan. 14-19 celebration for students, teachers and parents will culminate with each elementary class demonstrating what its students have worked on.

For information about the Penn State online master's degree focusing on children's literature, visit

Penn State World Campus specializes in adult online education, delivering more than 80 of Penn State's most highly regarded graduate, undergraduate and professional education programs through convenient online formats. World Campus is part of Penn State Outreach, which serves more than 5 million people each year, in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and more than 100 countries worldwide.

  • North Carolina fourth-grade teacher Tonia Bauer used knowledge learned in an online master's degree program to help her students improve their reading skills. She will graduate Dec. 22.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated December 18, 2012