DENTON, Texas (UNT) — Sue Dinaro always loved being an elementary school teacher, and after four years, she was on her way to becoming a master teacher. But when she moved from New Mexico to Texas after her husband’s job was relocated, she knew she’d have to look for something else. Wanting to stay in education, she came across an opportunity at the University of North Texas that tapped into her first career in law enforcement. It seemed a perfect match.
“This was coming back home for me,” says Dinaro, who landed in the UNT Police Department as a support specialist in charge of property and evidence. “Everything fit."
At UNT, Dinaro thrived, and this year, she was named “Property Technician of the Year” for the entire state by the Texas Association of Property and Evidence Inventory Technicians.
Still, that itch for teaching kids never left. Dinaro decided to get recertified in Texas – unsure that she’d ever have the chance to teach again.
“There are so many kids out there who struggle,” Dinaro says. “You have to learn to read before you can get anywhere. So many kids, and even adults, don’t have that love of reading, but a good teacher can inspire them and create in them a fire and interest to want to read.”
Little did she know that accepting the position five years ago at UNT would put her one step closer to going back to the classroom.
Learning about her past, several of Dinaro’s police colleagues, as well as her family, encouraged her to enroll in the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction degree program through the UNT College of Education. Then, co-workers informed her about UNT’s Faculty/Staff/Retiree/Dependent Educational Scholarship – which pays the UNT Board of Regents designated tuition and mandatory fees for qualifying individuals who are pursuing secondary degrees. The scholarship form is available online and in Room 105 of the Eagle Student Services Center through Student Accounting and University Cashiering Services.
“There is nothing holding you back if you apply yourself,” says Dinaro, noting that the excuses she had for not getting her master’s degree were gone. “It’s an excellent scholarship.”
Now in her first year as a UNT student, the former teacher is going back to school – for the third time – to pursue a teaching career.
Dinaro first started her bachelor’s degree in the 1980s. However, she chose work over school after receiving a job offer from a police station. The first of her four children came along shortly thereafter, and school was put on the backburner. She finally completed her bachelor’s degree in 2004 and taught until her family moved to Texas seven years ago.
Now, Dinaro, 53, says the curriculum and instruction program has been a perfect fit for her post-retirement career plans, giving her the ability to eventually return to teaching in a new, expanded role.
“This isn’t the typical college path people choose to take,” she admits. “It’s not the easiest thing, but you have to think that ‘maybe I can do it.’”
Program advisor Mei Hoyt, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, says the degree is a good fit for teachers in Texas like Dinaro who are looking to grow their careers. Graduates are prepared for leadership positions as master teachers, department heads or curriculum coaches, and students also can pair their degree with the College of Education’s school principal certification if they are interested in reaching the highest ranks of education at the campus and district levels.
Multiple degree track specializations are available, including Bilingual Education and English as a Second Language; Mathematics; Literacy; and Educational Leadership – and many of these concentrations are offered 100 percent online.
Hoyt says the choices allow students like Dinaro to customize their degrees. The online offerings will open the door to teachers throughout the state who are unable to commute to UNT. The move makes the program the latest online addition to the College of Education, which is ranked No. 13 nationally for Best Online Graduate Education Programs.
“The goal has always been to work with students to meet their individual needs,” Hoyt says.
For Dinaro, the literacy path was the right choice.
Working with her supervisors in the Police Department, she has been able to adjust her schedule to fit in classes and coursework. The ability to take online courses will help, too.
“I see the future of UNT involving online courses. UNT has come full circle from a small teachers’ college to now offering classes in education that are fully online. It meets the needs of today’s students,” Dinaro continued.
She’s not entirely sure where the degree will take her, but she hopes to eventually pursue an instructional post that allows her to lead the charge for curriculum decision-making and mapping for a team of teachers.
“Someone needs to give you a push sometimes,” she says. “My co-workers at UNT kept me encouraged in my pursuit of an excellent education.”