Teresa Hibbets has a slightly different definition of retirement than most people.
"I retired from teaching at ULM a year-and-a-half ago," she said. "I came back in Fall 2018 to teach an online class. They called me and said they had some openings. I said, 'Okay, I'll come back and do this part. I can do this.' As an adjunct, I teach methodology of science and social studies to prep teachers for the classroom."
Hibbets also owns and operates The Chalk Board & Gifts, a school supply and gift shop in West Monroe. She has no plans of slowing down any time soon.
"Operating the store keeps me pretty busy," she said. "I've had it for about eight years. While I was teaching full time, I was running it, too, burning the candle at both ends. If you want something done, you find someone who is really busy because they'll squeeze it in somewhere. That's the way I lived my life."
Born and raised in the Monroe area, Hibbets graduated with a bachelor's degree in elementary education in 1990. She added a Master of Education in Educational Leadership in 2003 and Plus 30 teaching certification two years later. All of her higher education is from ULM.
"At the time, Louisiana was offering some nice salary incentives if you had your master's degree," she said. "I also had a desire to work in a leadership capacity that required a higher degree. In the back of my mind, I always thought, 'Maybe one day I would like to teach at the collegiate level,' but I never anticipated that I actually would.
"I wasn't sure if I would finish a doctorate or if it would ever work out, but it did. I had the equivalent of a doctorate with the hours and my years of experience. It worked out great because teaching in college was on my bucket list."
When Hibbets was 9 years old, her favorite activity outside of attending school was playing school.
"School was something I always loved to do," she said. "It was part of me from the beginning. I've always said that the better educators are the ones who feel it's a calling. They can't seem to get away from it, so they go with it."
Hibbets taught sixth grade in her first year as a professional before teaching second grade for 18 years. She then served as a reading interventionist working with children with characteristics of dyslexia for seven years before taking on full-time teaching at ULM.
"Without the M.Ed., I never would have been able to do the reading interventionist job that I loved," she said. "I traveled from school to school and got to meet a lot of people and see a lot of things in a different light. I also couldn't have taught at ULM without the master's degree.
"You open a lot of doors for yourself when you say yes to a master's degree plan. There are a lot of positions where they want to know that you have a master's. It helps to obtain those positions and do them successfully. When I started teaching for the first few years, I didn't think that I wanted to [get a master's]. Then, I said, 'I want to think about it and open some doors.'"
EDLE 5015: Legal, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues was the course in the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program that Hibbets enjoyed most.
"It was about school laws and cases that made a big difference in history," she said. "You saw things from a perspective you don't think about in the classroom and all of the ins and outs and difficulties that have come up through the years to get us where we are now."
Hibbets believes the master's degree program curriculum gives educators a distinct competitive advantage.
"People who earn master's degrees have it in their hearts to better themselves and do a better job educating," she said. "You get that little bit of an edge with your exposure and your knowledge. That's what master's degree plans do -- they broaden that spectrum. You're already on that track, so why not broaden your scope? It makes total sense."
Although online education didn't exist when Hibbets began her teaching career, she came around to the idea of teaching distance learners.
"I'm a people person," she said. "I love meeting people. I love interacting with people. You don't get to do that quite as easily with an online class, although I am very active with my forum and have them do a lot of talking with each other and me. I try to make it as interactive as I can."
The growth and opportunity the online format created helped Hibbets come around to the idea of its importance at ULM.
"I like the versatility of an online program and making education readily available to so many people," she said. "I can also do my teaching from home or wherever I might be. It's very flexible. That works for today's pace. I love it much more now than when I first started teaching online.
"I get tickled because you get some of the same excuses from online students you get from in-person students when they can't turn in an assignment on time. It's the same types of things like my dog ate my homework. That's life, in general."
In her "retirement," Hibbets, who has been married to her husband for 40 years, stays busy with her five kids and eight grandkids. "We're almost like the Waltons," she joked. Two of her children attended ULM, while another plans to become a Warhawk after high school. Hibbets knows firsthand that the M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program lays a great foundation for educators pursuing bigger and better things in their careers.
"There's a world of opportunities out there," she said. "Our program prepares you to walk through those doors that might open. You have no way of knowing what opportunities will come your way. The online format takes away all of your reasons not to do it. You can do it from wherever you might be.
"ULM is also super supportive of students and their situations. I found it to be wonderful. It's nice because you really know what you have, and you don't have to worry that it's not going to stay the same. It's been growing and getting better all of the time. That increases what we're able to do for the student."
Learn more about the ULM online M.Ed. in Educational Leadership program.
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