Erica Bednar traveled the world and thousands of miles before returning to CU Boulder and her hometown to earn her Master’s degree in literacy studies education from the School of Education.
In Okinawa, Japan, Bednar worked as a paraprofessional for students with learning disabilities at a Department of Defense elementary school, where she fell in love with teaching. Once stateside again, she earned a BS in Secondary English Education and started teaching high school English.
Her life of traveling and loving literature came full circle when she returned to her hometown in Boulder to become a middle school language arts teacher at a school where the principal was her former math teacher and enrolled in CU Boulder graduate studies in education. Bednar’s courses have been challenging but rewarding, she said, and learning alongside her professors and peers has improved her teaching.
“We are all better teachers when we learn from each other,” she said. “My professors and peers all had different styles and strengths. From the inspirational writing community Wendy Glenn guided in ‘Processes in Writing’ to the incredible support network Silvia Nogueron-Liu created in ‘Digital Literacies’ when we all literally went digital for the pandemic, I had the privilege of learning new strategies and skills from the dozens of creative and experienced teachers who were my classmates.”
The COVID-19 pandemic combined with an unexpected, non-COVID health disruption, led Bednar to make the difficult decision to take a leave of absence from teaching for a year while her husband worked overseas for the U.S. Air Force and she cared for her two children. She used that time to write a young adult novel and deepen her connection with teaching colleagues in her Master’s courses.
My students are bright and vibrant in so many ways. They shine. Some shine in my room, some in the math class next door, some in choir or band, some as the jokester in the lunchroom, some on the basketball court or the track. I hope my teaching can help give them the power of literacy, so they can shine even brighter.”
“Throughout the pandemic, I have been constantly impressed and inspired by the enduring dedication to teaching of my cohort peers,” she said. “I am so thankful for everything I have learned from this education community.”
Bednar’s faculty and peers admire her investment in literacy development and her ability to create affirming environments where young writers can shine.
“My students are bright and vibrant in so many ways,” she said. “They shine. Some shine in my room, some in the math class next door, some in choir or band, some as the jokester in the lunchroom, some on the basketball court or the track. I hope my teaching can help give them the power of literacy, so they can shine even brighter.”
Exactly 15 years after completing her bachelor’s degree at CU Boulder, Bednar is earning her master’s degree, but she does not see graduation as an end to her career as a learner.
“Throughout the MA program, I made a point to tell my 7th grade students about my classes,” she said. “They would ask, ‘Mrs. Bednar, you’re still going to school?’ The answer was yes, is yes, and will continue to be yes, because I want to model for my students that we should all seek to learn new things for the rest of our lives.”