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For UST Student, Masterís in Education Is Special

Elizabeth JimenezLove for an older brother with special needs gave alumna Elizabeth Jimenez a heart for special education. It placed her in the first cohort group of the federally funded Master of Education in Special Education Leadership program at University of St. Thomas.

For the 2011 education alumna who now works toward her master’s while teaching full time at Houston Independent School District’s Lantrip Elementary School, special education is a passion.

“I watch my students get excited as they celebrate the small things,” Jimenez said. “We don’t realize how lucky we are to be able to do things for ourselves. When I can give kids the tools to do for themselves, that’s the best feeling in the world.”

Shortly after Jimenez began her teaching career, she developed a dream to touch more students than just the ones in her classroom. A desire grew to influence special education from the administrative level. That requires a master’s degree.

Last semester, as the young instructor looked online for a master’s program, she came across the one at UST.

“It was like a flashing light for a number of reasons,” Jimenez said.

First, as a UST graduate, Jimenez already understood the advantages of learning at the city’s only Catholic university.

“The most obvious benefit is the small student-teacher ratio, so you really get to know your professors and classmates,” Jimenez said. “The professors have our best interests at heart and care about whether we learn and succeed. And I value the emphasis on building leaders of faith and character. Plus the campus is beautiful.”

Through the federally funded program, she benefits from affordable tuition, but what she appreciates even more are the strong connections she is building with her cohorts through teamwork.

“I get to work on elaborate projects with people who have different ideas from mine,” Jimenez said. We’re given hypothetical situations and work out the best way to serve the child. It’s constant collaboration.

“You stay with your cohorts throughout the program, so I’m creating a lifelong network of educators. And I will be able to contact these individuals for years and say, ‘Hey, I need your help.’”

In the meantime, UST is recruiting for a second cohort group.

“I would say the ideal recruit is anyone who is passionate about special education and wants to make a positive difference in the special education department,” Jimenez said.

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