Lydia Justus, wearing a black top and bright pink jacket, stands outside among green grass and flowering trees.

Class of 2023: Lydia Justus

Continuing her education after a 30-year gap, Lydia Justus is fulfilling a lifelong dream by earning her Master of Teaching degree and becoming an advocate for English language learners.

Laura Hoxworth

Inspired by her mother, who always wished she had been able to continue her education, and encouraged by her daughter to consider an online program, Lydia Justus overcame personal and cultural barriers to pursue her passion for education. During her time at UVA, she was hired as an ESL teacher at Mannassas Park Middle School. She graduates with her Master of Teaching degree in English as a Second Language.  

What inspired you to choose a career in education? 

Education has always been my dream. I have had a passion for education ever since my mom told me that she wished she had a chance to continue her education. I came to this country in 1990 for the first time hoping to continue my education, however, due to family obligations, I couldn’t. Then we moved back to India in 2001. In 2020, when I was in India, I saw my daughter taking an online course in neurobiology. Seeing my curiosity, she motivated me to take online courses in education because she knew I was passionate in this field. Then, I registered for Foundations of Teaching and Learning in Coursera. Since then, I have been eager to continue learning and exploring innovative teaching techniques. 

Why did you choose the UVA School of Education & Human Development for your program of study? 

As my family was planning to move back to the United States, I was searching for the licensure requirements to teach in Virginia. Then, I discovered that UVA School of Education & Human Development offered a master’s program in English as a Second Language, which I wanted to pursue. Furthermore, the tuition was affordable, and staff were friendly and welcoming. Whenever I emailed them, their immediate response gave me confidence to boldly take the next steps in continuing my education after a 30-year gap. Though I was an online student, I received high quality instruction which was equal to in-person instruction with the latest research, technology, and innovations that helped me stay updated in the educational field. I entered without any technology skills, and the UVA School of Education & Human Development and the Manassas Park Middle school supported me to grow immensely. 

What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time here? 

All the courses that I took in this program, all the instructors who taught me, and all the staff who supported me throughout my journey at UVA had a distinctive role in shaping me. Yet, the most significant part was how the program is closely tied to real practical experience in school. Because I was teaching and learning simultaneously, I was able to understand the U.S. school culture and students better. I enjoyed learning in every course because I was able to make connections to all the readings. Moreover, case studies, interviews and group projects not only shaped me to become a resourceful professional in ESL, but also helped me to blossom with confidence in education and in my personal life. 

What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most? 

The Life Span Development and its relevance to education and behavior is truly an astounding thing I explored during my studies. It was surprising when I discovered that I had the hidden desire for education emphasized by the behaviorism theory. Though I had not been talking about it very often, I realized that I had an unconscious desire for education inside of me because it was impeded for my mother in her life. This experience from my childhood seems to be driving me to cross cultural barriers and achieve success. 

If you can, name one person that has made a special impact during your studies and how? 

Courtney Sullivan and April Salerno made a special impact on my educational journey at UVA. I am very thankful to Courtney because she is welcoming and approachable. Though I haven’t ever seen her in person, she is one person who I relied on the most. Whenever I struggled with anything, the first person who came to my mind was Courtney. Her prompt replies to my emails and guidance in registering for appropriate classes at the right time were very helpful. When I told her I got a job in a middle school, I appreciated how she immediately suggested I take the Behavior and Classroom Management class. It made a big difference in my classroom. Similarly, I admire Professor April for her passion for ESL education. She taught two of my courses, and those two courses made me become a strong advocate for English language learners. 

What will you be doing next? 

I consider myself a lifelong learner. So, I would like to continue exploring more about teaching. Also, I love teaching and being around children. Therefore, I will keep serving English language learners in Manassas Park Middle School. Along with this, I have a desire to write a book, and learn guitar in my spare time. 

Class of 2023 Graduation Profiles

We invite you to get to know a few members of the UVA EHD Class of 2023 as we celebrate the accomplishments of the entire class.

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Laura Hoxworth