From the U.S. to South Korea: Reading education student focuses on teacher collaboration

In 2016, Angie Vernau, a teacher for over 20 years, moved with her family to Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Vernau’s husband was an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army when they first married and lived in Augusta, Georgia. Vernau is a mother of three children and currently works as an Instructional Systems Specialist for Science (K-5) for the Pacific West District.

Vernau holds a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Eastern New Mexico University and later earned a master’s and a specialist in curriculum and instruction from Augusta University. When her family moved out of the country, Vernau decided the best way to continue her education was remotely. With a graduation date of 2022, Vernau is studying to obtain her M.Ed. in Reading Education online at the University of Georgia. 

She chose the University of Georgia due to its highly recognized reading education program and the faculty members' reputation for being flexible and accommodating. 

“Living in a foreign country doesn't offer many learning opportunities unless you use the online option,” she said. “I can still focus on my daily responsibilities with teaching and have the evenings to study.”

Although Georgia is 14 hours behind South Korea, Vernau said the faculty are supportive of the time difference and make themselves available when convenient. The program also has provided Vernau with a sense of community, as she’s not the only student studying out of the country. She’s collaborated with teachers both in the U.S, China, and South Korea.

“Last year during the onset of the pandemic, my professor's assistant’s family was here in South Korea,” she said. “When Korea was hit hard with the initial COVID-19 cases, it was nice to have someone to talk to who knew what we were facing.”

Despite being a fully online program, Vernau said she’s completing projects directly with other students and is never learning in isolation. She said the program has benefited her in various ways, foremost in enhancing her teaching methods in the classroom. She now can cite research to support her ideas in education and use technology to support teaching methods.

Vernau is set to graduate next year and hopes her degree will help her coach other students and teachers. She aims to build a community of teachers to collaborate on research-based instructional practices that will enhance learning for students. Vernau plans to remain at Pacific West District and looks forward to building teams in her district and across the world who support military connected students.

“I hope to encourage and support teachers as they continue to teach both in person and virtually through the pandemic,” she said. “I hope to inspire teachers to create online learning experiences for students despite the limitations of COVID-19.”