AU Profiles – Heather Atkinson

STUDENT: Heather Atkinson

This week’s profile introduces Heather Atkinson, a new Athabasca University student who’s taking the courses she needs to follow her dream of becoming an English teacher. The stay-at-home mom, who lives about an hour from Edmonton, explains why distance education works so well in her situation. She also tells how she persuades herself to study, even when She’s tempted to procrastinate.

Heather, who is working through her first course with AU, initially attended university immediately following high school. ?I don’t think I appreciated it at all . . . it was just something that had to be done,? she says.

Although she’d wanted to obtain her B.Ed., ?my marks weren’t good enough to get in . . . so I settled for . . . the B.A. in English,? says Heather, who graduated in 2000. She hadn’t forgotten about her hopes to teach English, however. Several years later, ?I was talking with a teacher . . . and told him that, and he asked, ?So what’s stopping you??? she says. ?That really lit a fire.?

Heather plans to apply to the University of Alberta’s B.Ed. after-degree program next spring. Although She’s already earned her B.A. in her planned major, English, Heather still needs several prerequisites for her proposed minor, social studies. That’s where AU fits in. By studying through AU’s unclassified stream, She’s able to obtain those courses without having to attend class.

Originally, Heather considered taking the prerequisite courses part-time at the University of Alberta, but the cost of the hour-long commute to Edmonton?along with childcare costs?made that impracticable.

?My husband suggested looking into online courses,? Heather says. ?[He] gave me a link he’d found after Googling?and here I am!?

The rising price of gas makes the convenience of studying at a distance especially apparent. Heather hopes to continue studying from home as much as possible, even when she begins the B.Ed. program.

?I will probably take as many courses as I can online,? she says. ?The less time spent driving to campus, the better.?

So far, distance learning has worked well. ?I’m enjoying doing things on my own time,? Heather says. ?Actually I’m finding it a lot more interesting than I did going to school the first time, maybe because I actually want to do it.?

She also enjoys the concept of independent study: ?I was never that much of a talker in class,? Heather says. ?The only part I miss is lectures . . . It’s hard . . . to know what notes to take without someone writing on a board or actually talking at me.?

Procrastination is sometimes difficult. ?It’s really easy to slack off,? Heather says. ?Making myself sit down and get it done can be a challenge.?

To keep herself on track, she tries to strictly follow the schedule set out in the course handbook. Remembering her end goal of teaching English also helps: ?I really want to get my B.Ed., and the only way to do it is to do these classes . . . regardless of how much motivation I have at the time,? Heather says. ?Once I start, I get right into it.?

Heather hopes to finish by next spring, in time to meet the B.Ed. application deadline. ?I have it all planned out,? she says. ?By the time I’m done school my youngest should be going into it . . . so I won’t be at home bored all day.?

In the meantime, studying and caring for her two children, aged four and almost one year, keeps her busy. ?I tend to leave [studying] until after bedtime,? she says.

Although She’s currently just taking one course?to ?test . . . the waters,? she says?she plans to try two classes next semester since It’s working so well.

She’s excited to be able to make progress toward her long-held dream. ?When my books first arrived I was so happy and excited that I cried,? Heather says. ?I had to explain to [my four-year-old] why I was so happy to be going to school!?

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