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June 7, 2013

Educational technology experience helps ULM graduate student excel

Lafayette native Natalie Sonnier always dreamed of making a difference as a teacher.

Now pursuing a degree in the University of Louisiana at Monroe's online master's degree in educational technology leadership program, Sonnier realizes her impact can be even greater.

Because of her graduate studies through ULM, Sonnier will take on a new job as a second grade teacher and technology leader at New Iberia's Epiphany Day School.

The school recently became a member of the prestigious Louisiana A+ Schools Network—a network of public, private, and charter schools, which emphasize arts, curriculum, experiential learning, multiple learning passageways, enriched assessment, collaboration, infrastructure, and climate.

"I am excited to start this new journey in my career," said Sonnier. "I hope that I can use some of the knowledge I have learned in my program to enhance all learners."

Sonnier's expertise in educational technology also led to her being featured as The Louisiana A+ School News blog guest blogger, highlighting her mounting success.

"I think that my studies at ULM have allowed me to fulfill my lifelong dreams," said Sonnier.

"I am very proud that I am in the educational technology program at ULM because I know my professors, my colleagues, and my dedication to the program will be a huge asset to my future endeavors."

Sonnier has wanted to be a teacher nearly all her life. "I love to teach the little ones essential skills for the future," she said. "This aspiration to be a teacher started when I was very little and followed me throughout my life."

Teaching has not always been easy. Sonnier recalls her first year of teaching as a challenging one.

"The obstacles took a toll on me," she said. "…I stayed in the struggle and never gave up. I would tell first time teachers to do the same... I am very fortunate to have had that experience – I am glad I had persistence."

She related the difficulties of her first semester, saying, "I always put the students first. I tried everything I could imagine to make the learning fun and engaging."

Sonnier had the most success when she took interest in her students' lives outside of the classroom. After attending her students' sporting events, "I could see a smile for days, just because I made an effort and dedicated a special time for their interests and hobbies."

In both her undergraduate and graduate careers, as well as in her teaching experiences, Sonnier has found that a strong support group helps generate success.

"In my undergraduate studies, we had a close cohort that worked together. In graduate school, I found a second family… I am taking my program 100 percent online and never met these individuals before, but I know they are special people that make a huge difference to my learning experiences."

She highly recommends the online degree program, calling it "a great way for me to still continue to work and make an income while I obtain my graduate degree."

Sonnier earned her Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

She is certified to teach early childhood education grades Pre-K through third as well as middle school mathematics.

She will graduate from ULM in December 2013.

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