Nicole Gray grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned degrees in music education and Spanish and taught private trumpet lessons in the community.
Following graduation in 2019, Gray moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she accepted a position as a public school band and orchestra teacher. Not long after this transition, Gray decided to apply to the Online Masters in Music Education program offered through the University of Georgia's Hugh Hodgson School of Music. Gray chose the University of Georgia online MMEd program because she wanted to have a better understanding of the education system in Georgia.
Although she intended to apply for the summer of 2022, summer music clinics that she usually taught were canceled due to COVID-19. This allowed Gray the opportunity to apply for the University of Georgia Online MMEd one year earlier than expected.
Gray found the program’s quality and design aligned with her career goals and work schedule. After researching various programs, Gray discovered UGA’s online program for Music Education was “one of the top online programs in the country.”
“After some research, I decided to apply to UGA. I was also interested in pursuing my degree while teaching full-time. I liked the balance between a heavier course-load during the summer semesters that helped make the semesters during the academic year a bit lighter. This was perfect for teaching and earning a degree,” Gray said.
When asked what she found most interesting about the program, Gray explained how course content addressed her specific teaching needs. “I learned a lot about the action research process by designing and implementing my own research study. It felt extremely personal as we were able to choose our own research topic and conducted the research with our own students. Every decision was tailored to my teaching situation because it occurred between my students and me,” said Gray.
To ensure success in an online program, Gray offered advice about making a good schedule. “It’s important to evaluate your own study and work goals while evaluating how much time you will need to complete these activities and be successful in your program,” said Gray.
She advised, “Short-term goals are helpful to stay motivated throughout the week and be sure to prioritize the order in which you begin assignments.”
Another tip from Gray was to have open communication with professors. Issues with technology can happen on both ends. Having good communication can help overcome these problems more efficiently.
Through this program, professors encouraged Gray to analyze her own teaching methods. She has learned to question everything in her music program to identify how she can make her instruction more applicable and engaging for her students.
“The courses, readings, and discussions pushed me to analyze my philosophical and technical approaches to teaching,” said Gray.
Gray plans to continue teaching in Atlanta for the next year or so until she moves to a new city. Wherever she goes, she plans to continue teaching music at the middle or high school level.
Gray shared, “I believe earning my degree has made me a more informed music educator. I hope to continue to build my current and future music programs to provide students the opportunities to engage and perform a wide variety of music, take artistic chances in the classroom, and learn about music from fellow peers.”