Despite long shifts at a chemical plant, LaTunja Caster completed her degree to become an educator and safety representative.
By Jennifer Eberbach
DEGREE EARNED: Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) with a specialization in Early Childhood Education (Birth–Grade 3)
HOW LONG IT TOOK:Two years
WHAT INSPIRED ME TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL: In 2006, I was making a routine round on my night shift at a chemical plant when sulfuric acid sprayed all over my face and upper torso. Thank God I was wearing all my personal protective equipment and wasn’t seriously hurt. That event motivated me to redefine myself.
HOW I FOUND TIME TO STUDY: I would end a 12-hour shift and start my coursework, which meant 20-hour days. I never let my kids see me doing homework—I never wanted to take a moment away from the time I spent with them. At the time, I didn’t have Internet at home, so I submitted my homework wherever I could—at the library, my children’s school, or friend’s house. I made it work!
WHY I PURSUED TEACHING: I’ve been teaching people my whole life. When I was 14, I was in an accelerated program at a junior college. I found myself tutoring classmates who were a lot older than I was, mainly 30- and 40-year-old continuing education students. That led to work as a student aide for chemistry and biology students when I went to college.
HIGHEST POINT: Doing my student teaching and observation at my children’s elementary school. It was the first time I could join them at lunchtime. I could be the parent I wanted to be.
HOW MY DEGREE HELPS ME MAKE A POSITIVE SOCIAL IMPACT: I live in an area where schools’ needs exceed their funding. When I was student teaching, I brought fresh ideas from Walden to the table. This inspired me to start the W.E. Foundation in honor of my grandparents, who put me through school. Through my work for the foundation, I reach out to students and their parents, and I have been instrumental in organizing donations from local companies to these schools. I’m also focused on GED training and résumé workshops to help adults.
BIGGEST CHANGE IN MY LIFE SINCE EARNING MY DEGREE: I use my skills as an educator in my new position as an adjunct professor at ITT Technical Institute, where I teach a course on strategies for technical professions. I also work as a safety representative, which involves safety and industrial training for employees. Ultimately, I aspire to become a motivational speaker and life coach. By sharing the principles that help me achieve my dreams, I know I can be instrumental in making a world of difference in the lives of others.
Tell us how you did it at myWaldenImpact@waldenu.edu.