PLYMOUTH, N.H.- Their journey started 35 years ago in Kenosha, Wisconsin, when Christine and Ed Munz were married a week after graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Parkside, both earning bachelor’s degrees in music.
Ed began working as a retail merchandise buyer, Christine was a stay-at-home mother who worked as a substitute teacher and managed to stay involved with music by directing singing groups. By 1986, the Munz family, including three children under the age of eight, decided to move to New Hampshire where Ed had been offered a new job. As the children grew older, Christine was able to resume substitute teaching, and her experience rekindled an old flame.
“I knew that I really wanted to get back into music full-time,” said Christine. “After working a series of long term substitute assignments, I knew I could really go back to teaching full time; it was a real confidence builder.”
When an elementary school music teacher position opened in Bedford, N. H., Christine applied and was accepted. Her joy at beginning a new career was tempered by the fact that her teacher training was dated.
“Once I got into it, I realized there was big gap between my undergraduate education and what was needed in my current job; I knew there were many things I needed to catch up on, like federal regulations, individual education plans and differentiated instruction,” Christine said. She started looking at options to further her classroom skills.
Plymouth State University’s College of Graduate Studies held an informational session in Bedford and opened Christine’s eyes to the possibility of gaining a master’s degree. Soon after that, she began taking courses toward her Master of Education Degree with a focus on integrated arts.
“PSU answered my questions on how I could do this,” said Christine. “People can still have their real lives and full-time employment while getting an advanced degree at PSU.”
In the meantime, Ed was mulling a career change, after becoming disenchanted with his corporate life.
“I didn’t find it fulfilling, I went to work for the Church as a pastoral associate, thinking teaching might be a good thing,” Ed said, who then earned a Master of Divinity degree with distinction from Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, MA. Ed is a deacon of the Roman Catholic Church.
In 2000, Ed began teaching at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, N.H. immersing himself in sharing his knowledge with students about faith, ethics and justice. But he yearned for something more; he strived to become a better educator. In 2003, he too began taking classes at PSU’s College of Graduate Studies, working toward a CAGS degree in educational leadership. “The courses have given me a richer understanding of educational practices; it’s really valuable in knowing how to teach classes differently.”
CAGS program Executive Director Dr. Leo Corriveau said Ed Munz was an exceptionally dedicated student.
“I remember how excited Ed was when he presented his final planning project, which was designed to improve programs and procedures at Bishop Guertin,” Corriveau said. “His articulate enthusiasm for applying the coursework to his high school was exceptional and encouraging.”
In 2003 the Munz family’s educational pursuits began intersecting as daughter Jennifer, a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, began taking courses towards a Master of Education with a concentration in Social Studies education while working in the retail sector. She now also works at Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, N.H. Jennifer admits it was challenging taking classes and working full time, but the College of Graduate Studies schedule made it achievable.
“It was difficult, but I managed to get the work done,’ said Jennifer.
Jennifer occasionally took a class with her mother, and the duo was referred to as “the Munz sisters”.
Christine says the age differences among the students in the class made the coursework and class discussions stimulating. “It was interesting being in a multi-generational class, it was always entertaining and refreshing to have different perspectives in class. I might have felt my age at times, but the instructors always made it work.”
The Munz’s youngest daughter, Karen, was actually the first of the family to begin studies at PSU. She entered her freshman year at PSU in September 2001 in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in art with a focus in drawing. Karen graduated in 2006, as a “Top 26 Student,” which is an academic and campus leadership honor. She worked for Residential Life that fall and began working toward a Master of Art-Teaching degree with a focus in art education. Then it dawned on the family that they could conceivably receive their graduate degrees together in 2008.
“When we started, we had no idea we’d finish at the same time,” said Christine. “We never planned this; it just came to us last year, as a big ‘what if…?’ “There has been a little synchronization; some of us have had to go on a faster pace to reach this goal.”
“We all started at a different time, but we never dreamed we’d get done at the same time,” said Jennifer. “I’m glad I get to share this with the rest of my family; growing up, my parents always said ‘study hard and get a good job.’ They always valued education and they’ve instilled that in us.”
Even though the Munz family is celebrating their unique graduation ceremony, they all emphasize the education they’ve received is a benefit they will enjoy long after their special day in their caps and gowns.
“I have always enjoyed the teaching, but now I appreciate the aspects of different learning styles,” said Christine. “I see the students change as they move through elementary school; what they know in music, I taught them, and that’s really very fulfilling”
“The coursework has really helped me put all the pieces together, so it’s been awesome,” said Ed. “The real value comes when you’re making an important point in class and the students really start getting it.”
“Our family is dedicated to education; we really value thinking for ourselves and passing that along to other people,” said Karen.
“I feel very proud, because not everything we value always comes to fruition, it’s been a process of concentration and hard work for all of us,” Christine said. “It’s an accomplishment we’re all proud of.”
PSU’s Graduate Commencement ceremony will be held Saturday, May 10, at 10 a.m. in the Plymouth State University John C. Foley Gymnasium.
For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or Bruce Lyndes