Focus On … Jennifer Endres '13
After a downsizing in her school district, Jennifer Endres decided to look at her situation with an optimistic attitude. She saw her unemployment as an opportunity to spend time with her baby daughter and also to pursue a second master’s degree at Hofstra University in English Literature. She completed her degree during Summer Session I of 2013 with an independent study. This fall, she returns to her position teaching English at William Floyd High School on Long Island.
What made you decide to pursue your M.A.? Was it interest or career-related?
I received my M.S. in Education from Dowling College in January 2007 and began teaching high school English in the William Floyd school district later that year. Unfortunately, due to the economic downturn, I was laid off from my teaching position in June of 2011. I was home with my infant daughter during this period, so there were valuable benefits to having the time off, but I began to get restless. As a teacher, I had the option to pursue professional development opportunities, but felt that an MA in my content area would be more advantageous and sustainable in the current economic climate. And while I also thought about getting an additional certification in special education or ESL, I realized that English literature was my first love and frankly I wanted something more intrinsically valuable. After conducting exhaustive research and enjoying a warm correspondence with the director of the graduate English program, I decided to pursue my M.A. at Hofstra, beginning in the spring of 2012.
What was it about Hofstra’s program that made you decide to complete your graduate studies here?
I looked at the course offerings and the requirements of the M.A. English program and found that both appealed to me. Moreover, Hofstra was very accommodating - they accepted six of my graduate English credits from Dowling, and they offered scholarships. They didn't require an entrance exam, but instead allowed my previous graduate work to speak for itself, and they understood that my undergraduate transcript was from 20 years ago. In addition, I liked that Hofstra offered a variety of classes focusing on a range of areas (from canonical to non-canonical, and classical to contemporary) once a week for two hours in the evening. Finally, because Hofstra accepted transfer credits and allowed me to complete the program with an independent study, I was able to attain my MA in about a year and a half, which was ideal.
What was your experience with the faculty in the program?
All the professors in the program were responsive, generous with their time, and encouraging. They respected the fact that I was a teacher and they understood my hectic schedule as a mom.
Can you talk about your research projects and the work you pursued as an MA student?
One of the things I appreciate most about the English faculty at Hofstra is how they not only exposed me to a variety of critical thinking methods, but actually enveloped me in a rigorous pursuit of intellectual fulfillment, and my work is a proud reflection of that. For example, in my Early American Literature class, I focused on poet Anne Bradstreet and argued against scholars who believe she is among the first American feminist writers by providing evidence in her poetry that displays a subtle resistance to Puritan authority, but ultimately fails to cross the gender divide to effect social change. In Approaches to Grammar, I explored the new Common Core standards' impact on students' writing skills and continued my investigation during an independent study, where I looked at the fundamental role of grammar in American literature and rhetoric. In the Jane Austen class I examined the masculinity/femininity paradigm in early eighteenth century England and argued that the gender roles were inversely presented in Pride and Prejudice.
What do you hope to do with your graduate degree? In what ways do you feel you are a better teacher because of the MA program, and in what ways will your experiences at Hofstra inform your own work in the classroom and raise the level of discourse? How will you apply what you’ve learned in the classroom?
Over the last few years in the public school setting, particularly with the implementation of Common Core, there has been an increased emphasis on the ability of students to formulate a convincing argument in their writing and then provide compelling evidence to support their position. For me, being immersed in the MA program enabled me to produce sophisticated academic work by engaging the work of scholars to help refine my own arguments in my writing. In my view, the ability to think critically is not innate, but it is vital to achieving success in higher education. I believe my experiences in the MA program can be applied to my own students, which will ultimately help them enhance their critical thinking skills while informing my own instruction going forward. With the benefit of an MA in my content area, I also look forward to teaching some of the more advanced ELA courses at William Floyd as well as pursuing adjunct professor opportunities so I can bring a college perspective into the high school classroom as well.
What genres of literature do you most enjoy reading? Studying? What literary works and authors really stood out and helped you embrace your graduate studies?
When I read for pleasure, historical fiction - particularly British - really appeals to me. Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are among my favorites, along with many of the works by Philippa Gregory. Not surprisingly, the classes I enjoyed most at Hofstra focused on works by Brits John Milton and Jane Austen.
What would you say to people interested in pursuing an M.A. in English Literature but not sure they can juggle their studies with other life commitments and responsibilities?
In the study room of my public library where I often worked on class assignments, there is a poster with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, which says something along the lines of nothing in the world that is worth having can be attained unless you have to struggle and put forth great effort to achieve it. That notion always resonated with me. I would advise anyone thinking about a life change to ask yourself how much you really want it, because the extent of that desire is what will motivate you toward success. When I began the graduate English program at Hofstra, I was scared that it would be too hard to complete, because I live 45 minutes from campus and my daughter was only 14-months-old. But I really wanted that MA degree, and it took great discipline, the tremendous support of my husband, and creative scheduling, but I did it.