New master’s program will equip educators to succeed in new teaching landscape

Megan Groves has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. 

Like many children, Groves, a senior who will graduate from Trevecca with a degree in elementary education later this month, played school with her friends at daycare. Even then, she remembers feeling a different kind of excitement.  

“I remember in daycare, we would sit in class and make worksheets for each other and pretend to go to school,” Groves recalled. “Once I got to high school, I wanted to become a speech pathologist. I grew up with a speech impediment where I had to go to multiple speech pathologists from the time I was four until I was 11. Freshman year of college, I declared as an elementary education major, and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I want to make an impact on the lives of younger generations, and I knew I wanted to be a support system and teach in a fun and exciting way.”

In the year of change necessitated by a global pandemic, Groves will have that opportunity—new ways of approaching the age-old act of teaching have been developed in the midst of crisis, and Trevecca has had a hand in that local response. 

In May, Trevecca announced a free training for teachers that focused on providing alternatives to teaching in the classroom and innovative techniques for providing education in a virtual classroom. More than 19,000 teachers participated in the training. 

In Nashville, nearly 90,000 students were affected by the move to remote instruction. Across the state of Tennessee, the 22nd largest school system in the nation, just over 1 million kindergarten through 12th grade students made the shift. 

Earlier this year, Trevecca launched a new program, the Master of Education in curriculum and online teaching. It’s something Dr. Penney Carden, curriculum coordinator for online programs and coordinator for Trevecca’s English as a second language (ESL) program, has firsthand experience with. She’s been writing curriculum focused on online instruction for the ESL program since 2009. Carden will serve as the director for the new master’s program.

“These courses are centered around how to build a curriculum that integrates the technology components, and we look at issues that people are experiencing presently in this new teaching landscape,” Carden said. Graduates of the master’s program will gain enough experience in both curriculum development and instructional technology to succeed in roles in both fields. 

What sets the new master’s program apart, Carden says, is the curriculum, which is written with the working teacher in mind. Trevecca’s Master of Education in curriculum and online teaching won’t just prepare graduates for future roles, she says, but also provide them with training and knowledge they can put into practice immediately in their classrooms. 

“We have all these tools at our fingertips, and this program is about how we are going to design instructions to use them,” Carden said. “How do you navigate copyright? How do you prepare classes that are going to be accessible for students with learning disabilities? What tools are available to you when designing a unit? [Master’s] students will design a unit, and they can pick that up and take it into a classroom tomorrow and use it.” 

The program’s curriculum is built on national standards, Carden says, which will be a benefit to graduates. 

“We have pulled national standards into the curriculum so when a student completes the assignments, they leave with a portfolio to showcase their expertise,” she said.

Brooke Eakes, a Trevecca elementary education major also set to graduate in December, plans to start the program in the new year. For the past several months, Eakes has been working as a student teacher at Carroll Oakland Elementary in Lebanon, Tennessee. 

Like many members of the Class of 2020, Eakes’ introduction to the professional world has been significantly impacted by COVID. 

“I was surrounded by people who just kept moving along the best they could so I just jumped right in line with them,” Eakes said. “It is definitely scary, but it is also nice to be something constant in these students’ lives.”

Eakes plans to be a member of the first cohort in the new master’s program, set to begin in February 2021. 

“Whether we are physically in the classroom, on a hybrid schedule, or in a remote learning environment, I will be able to stay in constant communication with [my students] and continue to give them the chance to grow academically,” she said. “I feel blessed to have been prepared by an education department that has continuously taught us to be flexible and be ready for anything this career might throw at us, and I feel prepared entering the classroom in 2021.” 

Learn more about Trevecca’s Master of Education in curriculum and online teaching. Classes are set to begin in February 2021.

Media contact: Mandy Crow,, 615-248-1695