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Stefanie Kubala Reaps Rewards of Online M.Ed. in School Counseling

Lamar University online graduate, Stefanie Kubala

Stefanie Kubala with her husband, Chris, and two children, Melanie and Grant

It only took Stefanie Kubala six months to land the job she coveted after earning a Master of Education in School Counseling online from Lamar University.

However, Kubala had a pretty solid emotional Return on Investment the day she walked across the stage in her cap and gown in December 2015.

“I was fortunate enough to have parents who put me through my bachelor’s degree, and I’m very blessed and thankful for that, but I did this,” she said. “I made this decision. My husband [Chris] and I paid for it. I was able to do a full-time job, have kids and graduate with a 4.0 GPA. I joined the honors program because, dang it, I earned it. I haven’t been that proud of myself in a really long time.”

Additionally, Kubala was able to show her two children, Melanie (8) and Grant (6), the ultimate payoff for all of her hard work.

“Having two kids, I wanted them to see the reason mommy had been in front of a computer for two years taking care of things,” she said. “I wanted them to see that this is what happens at the end “¦ That was important for me.”

Kubala is in her first school year as counselor at Comal ISD’s Freiheit Elementary School, the same school in New Braunfels, Texas, where she had taught the previous nine years.

“It’s been a very big blessing that our former counselor got an opportunity to be a counselor closer to home, which opened up the position,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to graduate in December, and then turn around and find a job the following summer.”

Back to School

Kubala enjoyed her role teaching first and third grade for six years each, but she knew she was ready to take her career as an educator in a different direction.

“I just decided that my love for the kids exceeded beyond the academic role of a teacher and more toward the social and emotional side of the kids, helping them become good citizens and all-around good people,” she said. “I wanted to help them remain in school, because I teach on a 60-75 percent Title I, low socio-economic campus. My role was a counselor in the classroom, as well. I found myself really enjoying that part of being a teacher more than I did the academic part.”

Kubala initially planned to take courses with another university as part of a cohort with her school district. Even though the cohort didn’t pan out, it served as the catalyst for Kubala.

“When that fell through, that was my sign I needed to get off of dead center and make a decision,” she said. “Through lots of talking, lots of prayer and a leap of faith, I decided administration wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to go, but that I wanted to do school counseling.”

Kubala initially researched the online degree programs at Stephen F. Austin State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education and Training in 2003. However, SFA only offered hybrid or on-campus counseling degree programs.

That was when Laurel Wilson, one of her friends who was earning an online education degree from Lamar University, told Kubala about the program.
“She said, ‘Yeah, it’s all online. It’s one course at a time. You finish up in five weeks with one, then you have a break for a week, then you start the next one. You’re plowing through it, girl.’” Kubala explained. “I thought, ‘That might be easier to handle because you don’t have three classes at one time — you have one that you’re focused on.’”

Plenty of Encouragement

Stefanie Kubala at Lamar University graduation with two friends

Stefanie at graduation with friends Misty (left) and Lindsey (right)

Kubala had a strong support system while she earned her M.Ed. in School Counseling degree online.

“My friends and my family definitely kept me on track,” she said. “My parents got tired of seeing me carry around my laptop with me wherever I went when I came home for a visit, but they knew there was a reason behind it that was only going to last for a little while. They were all there to support me, too, when I graduated. Some of them completely surprised me by showing up.”

Kubala also got some help along the way from her classmates and the Lamar University faculty.

“It’s kind of like what happens when you’re on campus,” she said. “You end up with this certain group of people you’re in classes with the whole time. It was really cool to get to stick with some familiar names “¦ I won’t say faces because you’re in webinars and not really seeing each other face-to-face as much. I was really pleased with it. Most of the professors were really happy to give you their cell phone number or their home number or personal email address. If you had any questions, they were more than happy to answer them.”

Plus, Kubala took heed of the good advice the faculty members passed on to her.

“They are real good about saying, ‘You’re doing this at a really quick pace,’” she said. “‘You’re doing one class in five weeks. I know you don’t realize it because you just figure out how this is going to work and you do it. But, you’re plowing through a lot information in a short amount of time, so you really need to be careful and take time for yourself at least one day so you don’t get completely burned out.’ They’re very right on that, just making sure you have at least a chunk of time to do what you’re going to do.”

Some Friendly Advice

Kubala said having a set routine is essential to the time management needed to balance home life, work and school.

“For me, it was when the kids went down at night, I would go on a 30-minute walk, and then I would park myself at the kitchen table and plow through what I needed to,” she said. “Sometimes it was midnight or 1 a.m. before I was going to bed, just to wake up at 5:30 the next morning and do it all over again. Set a routine for yourself. Figure out whatever it is that works for you and your schedule and whatever your life looks like. Don’t give up. I only allowed myself to work Monday through Saturday. I gave myself Sunday for me, a time to kind of unwind. I learned I could function on a lot less sleep than I thought.”

Kubala has even used that counseling degree to recruit some other potential online students to Lamar University with her success story.

“I tell people who are kind of on the fence about getting their graduate degree, ‘It’s probably the most proud of myself I’ve been in a really long time,’” she said. “I work with children every single day, but this one I did for me. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve done something to further myself.”

Learn more about the Lamar University online M.Ed. in School Counseling program.

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