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Q&A with full-time MAT student, Lara Kohler

Photo of Lara KohlerLara Kohler, a student in the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) full-time, one-year program, who will graduate in May, is pursuing a certification in secondary biology. We sat down to learn a little more about Lara and her experience in the MAT program at Loyola University Maryland.

What is your background?

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  After college, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso, West Africa, where I taught secondary math and science in French in a rural school.  I went on to work for two years as a research associate before attending graduate school for my Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.  I performed original scientific research, including publishing multiple manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, to receive my Ph.D. in Microbiology from Yale University.  Afterwards, I moved to the D.C. area to be a postdoctoral researcher. 
What inspired you to pursue the MAT program? 

During my time in D.C., I was contemplating what to do with the rest of my career.  Because I always liked teaching - as a Peace Corps volunteer and as a researcher - I decided to get certified to teach secondary science. That is what inspired me to enroll in the MAT program at Loyola.  I am excited about teaching on the secondary level because I can teach full time without having the pressure of having to run a research program or write grants.

Why did you choose Loyola?

I chose Loyola because of the small class sizes. I was excited about the option to do the program in just one year. Loyola also offered me financial support, which helped me a lot.  Interestingly, the tuition at Loyola was lower than that of other programs in the area -contrary to what others told me to expect given that it is a private institution.

What made Loyola feel different?

The small class sizes made Loyola feel different to me.  Everyone knows each other in my program, so it has more of a community feel to it.  The faculty are knowledgeable and dedicated. They know their students on a first-name basis and interact with them more often than just showing up to give a lecture.

How has Baltimore been an asset to you in the program?

Baltimore has been an asset to my training as a teacher because of the professional development schools that our program work with in the Baltimore area. The schools are implementing innovative educational programs for their students.  An example of this is the restorative practices training that I received at my internship site. They use restorative practices to execute proactive and responsive strategies to strengthen relationships. These relationships are essential to building community, so that conflict in and out of the classroom is lessened. These are strategies that I will use in my classroom.

What is the most valuable aspect of the program thus far?

The most valuable aspect of the program so far has been the small classes and the emphasis on social justice. It teaches us to be committed to the development of all children, especially those from underserved areas.

What can you share with future MAT students interested in this program? 

Everything I’ve mentioned is valuable information for a future MAT student. Loyola has several program options and pathways for the MAT program. The clinical experience and internships are such a huge part. It’s so rewarding to be in the classroom getting hands-on experience.