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Mother, daughter earn diplomas together
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Saturday marked a very special day in the Phillips household as 47-year-old Donna Phillips and her 22-year-old daughter Brooke Phillips both recieved bachelor of science degrees from Tennessee Tech.
Thanks to a partnership between Motlow College and Tennessee Tech, area students of all ages can earn a four-year teaching degree from Tennessee Tech without traveling to Cookeville.
In the 2+2 Elementary Education Program, students complete an associate of science degree at Motlow College and can transition easily into the Tennessee Tech program. Students then complete their junior and senior years through Tennessee Tech without leaving Motlow in McMinnville.
Donna worked for over 20 years as a teacher’s aide. She said her principal encouraged her to return to school to pursue her degree even though Donna herself thought she was too old. She said she talked it over with Brooke, her youngest child, before agreeing to try it.
Donna is glad she decided to get her degree. “It has been an awesome experience. We did all of our practicums together, checked each other’s work, rode to school together, and now we get to graduate together,” she said.
The McMinnville classes are taught by Tennessee Tech professors Dr. Nancy Kolodziej and Dr. Deborah Watlington.
According to Janie Robbins, associate director for Tennessee Tech’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Extended Education, “This is truly a huge partnership between Motlow, Tennessee Tech and Warren County Schools.”
Melody Edmonds, director of Motlow’s McMinnville Center concurred, saying she is proud Motlow is able to work with Tennessee Tech in offering this opportunity to students.
 The program is designed to mirror the quality of on-campus classes while increasing accessibility to more non-traditional students. Successful students earn a bachelor’s degree and licensure in elementary education from kindergarten through sixth grade.
Students say they like the program for a number of reasons, but largely because it helps them stay close to home. This is particularly appealing to young mothers and other non-traditional students.
Brittany Woodlee gave birth to son, Knoxx, only three weeks ago. She said it was possible to finish school and obtain her degree because, “The teachers have been so good. They took into consideration if anything happened.” She said she had a good pregnancy and was able to finish her observations. Her son, she said, came just in time.
Patricia Torres said she started school in 1990 and had to quit. “I would not have been able to finish if it were not for this program. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. This is the realization of a dream for me.”
During the student teaching phase in their senior year, students teach in area schools and make contacts. When they finish, they have created opportunities for themselves and have plenty of teaching experience under their belt.
When a student is accepted into the 2+2 program, he or she has all the same rights and privileges as any other Tennessee Tech student, such as entrance to games, access to campus services in Cookeville, as well as scholarships and financial aid options.
The majority of 2+2  graduates stay close to home, but some now work in larger cities like Nashville and Murfreesboro, and some work in other states. One past graduate from the McMinnville campus obtained a teaching job in Abu Dhabi.