Change of heart leads Erz to MSU

MINOT, N.D. – During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chenoa Erz made a life-changing decision.

With her physical therapy master’s program nearly complete, Erz embarked on a journey, transferring to Minot State to pursue her passion in the University’s education program.

She admits there were times when she doubted her choice.

“Definitely, the first week (after her decision) was tough. I never wanted to be a failure at anything, and to me, this felt like the sense of failure, not completing the physical therapy degree,” Erz said. “But I knew I wasn’t going to be happy doing that, and once I realized that I was going to become a teacher and that would make me truly happy, I was at peace with it.”

While she was having doubts about her career choice, it was exasperated by the isolation forced by the pandemic. It wore on her mentally and interfered with her ability to connect to her studies.

“I’m a visual, hands-on learner, and when COVID hit in the middle of grad school, it complicated a degree that is very visual and very hands-on,” Erz said. “I was alone and trying to learn the degree through a computer screen. I was isolated and alone in an apartment in Bismarck.

“Even after moving home, my parents were my fake patients, but it was still hard because I didn’t get the feedback I needed. It was a huge setback for me, and I kept thinking, I can work with children in this program, but can I really touch the lives of children? Deep down, I knew I needed to help children in a bigger capacity.”

Her supportive parents, Doug and Suzanne Erz, helped ease their daughter's emotional burden.

“They were really open to me coming home, and they took time out of their weekend to drive to Bismarck and move me home,” Erz said. “They told me I didn’t have to pay rent as long as I was going to school and were very supportive.”

A conversation with her mother helped convince Erz that teaching was the correct path.

“I was talking with my mom one day, and I still wasn’t sure what I was going to go back to school for; I knew I needed a degree, a path, a job, I needed to do something,” Erz said.  “She looked at me and said, ‘Chenoa, what did you want to do in elementary school when you wrote all these papers saying what I wanted to be? What did you write.’ I said, teacher. ‘There you go. Way back then, you already knew what you wanted to be when you were older; just dive right in.’”

Teaching became the way for Erz to work with and help children, a passion she had early on, but struggled at times to find a calling. She began her academic career by earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of North Dakota and then felt physical therapy could be a good option. While the latter did not turn out, she does feel her psychology degree is helpful in her newfound role.

“I think my psychology degree helps me be a better teacher,” she said. “It helped me learn how people think and behave the way they do. I can see those behaviors all the time in the classroom, and this helps me understand why they do that.”

While she was set on teaching as a career, it was during her clinicals that she decided the best option for her was the middle grades.

“I really thought going in I was going to work in the lower grades,” Erz said. “Initially, my clinicals were in first grade, then I got fourth grade and really liked it.”

While transferring schools wasn’t an issue for Erz — after all, she had changed from UND to UMary — going back to get a second undergraduate degree was sometimes awkward.

“The transfer process to grad school was easy. At (UMary), we weren’t on campus or connected to the campus community, so I think that made that transfer process easier; I didn’t have the connections you would be on campus,” she said. “Transferring here was easy. I did end up having to take one freshman-level course, and that was a little awkward. I was in class with all freshmen, and you tell them your age, and they are, no, you’re not that old! It was a history class, and it was probably one of the hardest ones I took here.”

MSU’s faculty helped her during the transfer process and then helped her thrive in the program.

“The advisors and professors made my transfer to Minot State easy for me. Kathy (MSU professor and elementary education coordinator Kathy Hintz) met with me whenever I needed. All of my professors were so helpful; I got my reading concentration, so I spent a lot of time with Lisa Borden-King (teacher education and kinesiology professor) and Karen Foley (teacher education and kinesiology instructor), who helped me so much with all of the reading retention, fluency, and phonics, all that.

“I think the small class size was beneficial for me. It just made it easier for me to raise my hand, volunteer to work on something, or talk with professors. Everyone was so open to helping me with my education.”

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 05/21/24   

» More MSU News