Jochman Looks Ahead to Completing Master’s Degree


Mallory Kaster, Senior Staff Writer

NDA seniors won’t be the only new graduates this May.  English teacher Stefanie Jochman will be receiving her Master’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Jochman has been preparing for five years, taking 12 classes and 36 credits total, to receive her Master’s.

“I wanted to pursue it, kind of for my own satisfaction. I like to learn,” Jochman said. “I knew that it would be good for my students if I continued my education. I have more I can bring to them.”

Jochman also said she knew that earning her Master’s would open up the possibility for her to teach more classes.

“Sometimes having a Master’s allows you to teach certain classes that not having a Master’s prevents you from teaching,” Jochman said. “Some college credit classes require the teacher to have a Master’s. I knew it would make me more flexible.”

Jochman said the timing was right, and she knew that she might not have this opportunity in 10 or 15 years. She also knew the Master’s program at UW-Oshkosh was flexible enough for her.

“The Master’s program at Oshkosh knows they have a lot of teachers in the program,” she said. “So they offer classes during the daytime for full graduate students, but for those of us who are part-time, they offer at least one night class a semester, usually one or two nights a week.”

Jochman said that even as an undergraduate student, she knew graduate school was something she wanted to pursue.

“It was always on my mind,” she said. “It was a goal that I wanted to achieve.”

Knowing people who had earned higher degrees helped Jochman believe more in her own ability.

“I had a doctor of languages who was my composition teacher in high school, so I knew that teachers could do that. My forensics coach also had his doctorate in biology,” she said. “I knew people who had them, so I knew it was something I could do.”

Jochman’s yearbook staff, which includes senior Kristin Tomcheck, recognizes Jochman’s dedication to her students

“She puts a lot of work in, and she lets us have the freedom we want with yearbook. However, if we do get stuck or need some guidance, she’s always there to help,” Tomcheck said. “I admire her strong work ethic and her patience when teaching others. She’s really taught me a lot.”

In order to earn her Master’s, Jochman had to write a thesis. She said her own interests helped her decide on a topic.

“My thesis is about literary pilgrimage because I like to travel to places where books were written or where they took place,” she said.

She remembers the moment it dawned on her what she wanted to write her thesis on.

“Wendy McClure wrote a book about going to all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home sites. It’s a great memoir. It’s really funny, and she shares a real love for the books, but she’s kind of irreverent about it too,” Jochman said. “I read her book two years ago, and as I read it, I went, ‘Aha! This is the kind of thing I want to do with my project.’ So I had something to go on.”

Jochman also had the opportunity to chat with and meet McClure.

“She was kind enough last spring, when I was starting to plan my thesis, to let me interview her for an hour on the phone. She was really, really nice to me,” Jochman said. “She happened to be touring for a new book of hers this past weekend, so I went and I met her in Milwaukee.”

Jochman is about to finish her thesis, which is one of the last steps in earning her Master’s.

“My [thesis] is a combination of critical and creative work. Sometimes people just do one or the other. So normally the creative is around 50-75 [pages], and the critical is 80-100 [pages]. Mine is going to be really close to 150 or over that,” she said. “I’m trying really hard to stay in the page limit. I just got really ambitious. It felt like a lot at the beginning, but I kind of broke it up into parts and it went really fast.”

Jochman said there are multiple reasons she wanted to earn her Master’s in English.

“I love taking English classes, and it keeps the door open if I would want to pursue a doctorate,” she said. “I definitely want a break, but if I would ever want to pursue a Ph.D., that door is open because I have the Master’s in English now.”

Head of the English Department, Jean Thillman, said Jochman is the best colleague you could ask for.

“She volunteers so much of her time and skills both to her students and fellow teachers,” Thillman said. “She is a great listener and offers valuable advice because she’s able to see both sides of an issue.”

Thillman said Jochman’s curiosity is what makes her such a great teacher.

“She is curious about so many things which makes her constantly seek out new ideas and strategies for teaching,” Thillman said. “She also has determination and self-motivation so she finishes what she starts.”

Thillman is glad Jochman is pursuing her Master’s while she is still young.

“I’ve found that as a teacher gets older, it gets more difficult to carve out the time and energy to pursue a Master’s degree,” she said. “Getting married and having a family can sometimes be an impediment to pursuing one’s education because a teacher is having to balance so many responsibilities.”

Jochman said a lot of teachers will pursue their Master’s in education or leadership.

“It allows us to continue our education and to remain leaders which is important because we’re teaching our students to be good learners,” she said.

“If you get a Master’s in education, you’re learning new teaching techniques, so it maybe helps you stay savvy on what the cutting edge of technology to use in the classroom is, what the best kind of lesson to use is.

Jochman said that in her English classes, she hasn’t learned teaching techniques, but she’s been exposed to a lot more material that’s been useful. Even some classes that she thought would never be useful in the classroom, like a forensic linguistics class she took, inevitably became beneficial.

“I’d come back from class the next day and say, ‘So last night we listened to police interrogations, and here’s how we analyze them,” she said. “Now let’s look at this conversation between Rochester and Jane and see who has the power and how we know.’”

The program was also very diverse, something Jochman said she liked.

“I took classes with people who are younger than I am, people who are a lot older than I am, people who are teachers, and people who are not,” she said.

She said there are people in many different professions who may choose to pursue a Master’s degree in English too.

“Besides English teachers, editors, people who teach at the technical colleges or people involved in the theater might get a Master’s in English as well.”

Overall, Jochman said all the hard work has been rewarding.

“We pursue it because we really want to. We like to learn,” she said. “It’s worth it.”