‘Buddy System’ Propels Two Teachers Toward M.Ed. Degrees With pretzels, veggies and memes, two Wheaton District 200 teachers cheered each other on

Lisa Virgilio, left, and Lynda Gilgenbach used the buddy system to keep each other on track and motivated as they studied for their M.Ed. degrees at National Louis University.

The swimming pool at Lisa Virgilio’s vacation hotel beckoned invitingly. But back in the Chicago area, her friend and study partner Lynda Gilgenbach was Skyping Virgilio in the hotel, ready to talk about a group project for a graduate education class. And thus, she kept Virgilio on track with schoolwork even during vacation.

“We motivated each other to complete our master’s degrees so we could graduate together, as we are from the same district (Community Unit School District 200 in Wheaton, Illinois),” Virgilio said.

“We offered ideas for research, used each of our schools’ data for our research projects and studied together to make sure we understood all of the expectations for each class.”

Gilgenbach is an ESL resource teacher for grades K-5 at Lincoln Elementary School in Wheaton, working with kids from 22 language backgrounds. She has been teaching full-time since 2012. Virgilio has been a first grade teacher at Carl Sandburg Elementary School in Wheaton since 2012.

Both have earned their M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with an ESL endorsement, and graduated June 24. They took the last five online classes together–while teaching full-time and each also pursuing extra jobs on Saturdays and Sundays. They had to miss trivia nights and fun nights out with friends, but they helped each other focus on finishing assignments.

“I would go over to Lynda’s school (after school) and we would munch on pretzels, goldfish and veggies to nourish our minds after teaching for the day!” Virgilio said. “We would catch up between typing our discussion board responses, and then discuss the main focus for each week by giving examples of how we see these in our classes each day.”

Gilgenbach commented the two would often send funny or inspirational texts and memes to keep each other going.

“We would just write or say, ‘You CAN do it!” Virgilio said.

And now, they have.

Find out more about the Master’s in Education in Curriculum and Instruction degree.