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Art Teacher Rebecca Recco Fuels Love of Technology With Online M.Ed.


The emotions Rebecca Recco felt while in the Lamar University Master of Education in Digital Learning and Leading online program covered the spectrum. Recco tragically lost her oldest child, Isaac Burch, less than a year after enrolling.

“It was a really tough time,” Recco said. “I’ve got to hand it to my professors, especially Dr. [Dwayne] Harapnuik. Isaac passed away a year ago, and I was going to quit his class. Dr. Harapnuik was working with me to stay in the class.

“He was very supportive and said, ‘If you have to quit, you can quit. It’s designed so you can jump back in the classes.’ That worked out very well. Everyone was great. Other teachers in the program were checking on me.”

Recco stuck with the class, moved to California with her husband, Issac Emrick, graduated in Summer 2018 and recently started a new job teaching art at Bret Harte Middle School in Oakland. She is also a professional artist.

“I tried online education before and it was very difficult to balance everything, but this program is designed so that the work I was doing for the program was also work I could use in my classroom,” she said. “There was a lot of overlap between my online work and my career. That made it a lot easier to balance it. I was doing some of the program from a U-Haul on the road. It was amazing.”

Recco already had significant digital learning experience prior to graduate school. In fact, she was West Virginia’s first Apple Distinguished Educator. Recco initially heard about Lamar University’s M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading while attending Apple Institute in Miami.

“When I started hearing about the program at Lamar University, and I saw there were other Apple teachers that were doing the program, I said, ‘Sign me up. Take my money,’” she said. “I’ve taught art for a very long time, and I love using technology.”

Inspired to Lead

Recco followed in the footsteps of her mother, Carol, by becoming an educator.

“My mom is an amazing teacher,” she said. “She’s one of those legendary teachers. It wasn’t so much her teaching and her practice as much as it was the effect she had on students. Over the years, students come back to visit her. I wanted to have that kind of effect on somebody’s life.

“I love teaching art and sharing what I’ve learned with my students. Also, seeing that people can benefit so much in their lives after they leave school made me want to be a teacher.”

Recco started her own career as an educator after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Art K-12 from Marshall University in 1999.

“When I came through school, along with a lot of the other teachers in my cohort, technology meant walking down to the computer lab once a week and typing a paper,” she said. “Now, students have technology in their pockets 24/7. There’s a gap between the adults in education and the children in education with what we think technology culture should be like. So, part of the master’s degree was trying to figure out how to build a positive digital culture in my school.”

Recco hopes to continue bridging that gap with her new position after working for a charter school in the Bay Area last school year. She remains an Apple Vanguard distinguished educator and coach.

“I’m super excited because my new school is interested in the art, the digital — the whole package,” Recco said. “They want to use my capstone project for the whole middle school. I built a program to teach students digital citizenship with a badging program, which was something useful I saw a need for. When the students collect the badges, they get special digital privileges. The M.Ed. program led to that.”

Pacific Coast Homework

Moving to the Pacific Time Zone was a major adjustment for Recco, but the flexibility of the online program helped make the move manageable.

“When I lived in West Virginia, it was a lot easier because my schedule was a little more aligned with the times of the online meetings with my classmates,” she said. “In California, it’s really hard because the meetings were right before I got out of school. I was stuck in traffic trying to get home. I missed talking to them in real time, but I was still able to attend those meetings. We stayed in contact quite a bit and built a real nice community of learning. It worked out well.”

Recco said choosing a favorite course in the online M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading curriculum is “like asking me my favorite ice cream.” One of her favorite “flavors” was the first course in the program, EDLD 5302: Concepts of Educational Technology.

“I started out the program with all of these expectations of what online learning was going to be like,” she said. “I learned all of those expectations were wrong. There was also this neat ‘aha moment’ when I realized that everything we were learning was what we were eventually going to be doing with our students. Everything in the program was really applicable.”

Another standout course for Recco was EDLD 5304: Leading Organizational Change.

“It was about how to be an influencer,” she said. “That was huge for me, because I grew up being a good Southern woman, to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ to be really cordial and go along with the plan. I never really learned leadership skills.

“This course taught me how to get into meetings and talk to people who still have that once-a-week computer lab idea about digital culture and encourage them to make a huge change for the better of the students.”

In the Frame

When Recco enrolled in graduate school, her friends and family were a bit skeptical.

“They simultaneously thought I was crazy,” she said. “I have kids. I was working several jobs when I started. It was really hard. As a professional artist, I do a lot of on-site work where I’m on a scaffolding somewhere and can’t exactly pull out my iPad and start working on school.

“A lot of my family thought, ‘How in the world are you going to get this done?’ As I started working through the program and started excitedly talking to my co-workers and family about the work I was doing, they said, ‘This is what you should be doing.’”

With all of the upheaval in Recco’s life the last two years, including experiencing her first California earthquake, she is ready for some stability as a master’s degree holder and influencer.

“There’s a lot going on right now, but the program is definitely worth doing,” she said. “I’m thinking about eventually doing a doctoral program. The M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading online program at Lamar University is especially helpful for any teacher because, while it is a digital learning program, the work that you do is based on what you’re already doing in your classroom. It’s different for everybody. It’s not a one size fits all program. It’s custom made for you.”

Learn more about the Lamar University online M.Ed. in Digital Learning and Leading program.

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