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Relative successes: mother, daughter earn education degrees together

Posted by on May 13, 2019


Jodi Moore and Erin Sester were thrilled to watch each other cross the Commencement stage at Aurora University. Moore graduated with a Doctor of Education degree. Sester had just earned a Master of Arts in Special Education. Nothing more special than a couple of AU buddies supporting each other, right? The occasion was, in fact, exceedingly special — because Moore is Sester’s mother.

As a career, Moore always wanted to work somewhere that involved helping others. She taught high school English and special education and, in 2012, advanced to become a principal. When she saw that AU had a cohort program in educational administration, she jumped at the chance to further her career. In 2015, she was promoted to district superintendent.

“AU considers each student as an individual, and the overwhelming prospect of entering a doctoral program was made a little less intimidating by that,” she says.

Despite her hesitation, Moore is a lifelong learner. At age 23, when Sester was just a year old, Moore began taking advanced classes in the field of education, with the goal of earning a master’s degree. As a youngster and beyond, Sester saw her mom juggle not just work and family but also school. It was an example that had a profound influence on her.

“My mother is extraordinary,” says Sester with obvious pride. “Growing up, I watched her complete a master’s degree, raise five children, work full time, and strive to improve herself personally and professionally. That’s why I knew from a very young age that anything was possible if I worked hard and didn’t give up.”

Sester followed her mother into education. As an undergraduate, she earned a bachelor’s in family and consumer sciences and found a calling as an alcohol and drug counselor and crisis intervention specialist for young adults. She saw the difficulties adolescents often have with school and decided to pursue additional education to help them as a teacher. AU offered a chance at that with a master’s degree, accompanied by a Learning Behavior Specialist I (LBS I) endorsement. She now serves as a special education teacher for third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students.

“The concept of applying my counseling background in the classroom sparked a fire in me to advocate for and motivate students who may find school a struggle or a stressor,” she says.

For Moore and Sester, taking classes and working to achieve degrees at the same time as each other has been one huge boost toward their career successes.

“We were interested in pursuing degrees so we could grow professionally, but personally, we were each hesitant to commit to the time and work,” says Moore. “Making the commitment together was very motivating for us.”

Also offering a support structure to the two students have been the faculty at AU. Both mother and daughter had outside pressures during their studies, among them Moore’s important responsibilities as a superintendent and Sester’s family life: she had two children while in the program. Sester says the professors were supportive and even offered guidance outside of the classroom. Moore agrees.

“Out of necessity, continuing my education has been a part of my work life and family life,” she says. “My AU professors were always cognizant of the importance of my need to continuously prioritize. They and my fellow students were so valuable in making the experience fulfilling yet manageable.”

The hard work paid off and was especially poignant on graduation day.

“The fact that my biggest influence and supporter was not only in the crowd watching me walk across the stage but also walking across the stage herself that day was something I will never forget,” says Sester.