Cathy Balfanz smiles at the camera

Class of 2024: Cathy Balfanz

Cathy Balfanz, an elementary school teacher, came to the UVA School of Education and Human Development to complete her Master of Education with a focus on literacy.

Audrey Breen

Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, Cathy Balfanz now claims a number of places, including Charlottesville, VA, as her hometown. As the wife of an active-duty military member, she and her family moved at least 10 times during his 20-year military career. Now in Northern Virginia, Balfanz pursued her master's degree online at the UVA School of Education and Human Development and will graduate this spring with her M.Ed. in curriculum & instruction. This spring, Balfanz will also complete her fifth year of teaching, and looks forward to using and sharing her new knowledge about teaching literacy.  

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

Some friends introduced me to the work of Dr. Daniel Willingham, a cognitive psychologist at UVA. His research in cognition, as it applies to teaching, appealed to me. I wanted to learn more about the science of learning, as well as the science of reading instruction.

UVA’s School of Education & Human Development combined world-class instructors, recent research, and exceptional peers. The M.Ed. in curriculum & instruction program with a focus in literacy was exactly what I wanted.

What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time while you’ve been here?

The discussions in all my courses have been very impactful to me. I have received thoughtful and considerate feedback from my professors and peers, which led to enriching learning experiences. My instructors have gently guided me in my growth, and my peers were willing to self-reflect on their own teaching habits and to seek ways to improve.

I have learned how to be a more effective teacher because of our thought-provoking discussions based on the research and best practices we have encountered in our courses.

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

When I entered my program, I knew I would learn about how to teach literacy; I thought the focus would mostly be on reading instruction. I was pleasantly surprised by the additional focus on how to teach writing, which I had found intimidating up to that point.

Most impactful to me has been how to use writing to enhance student learning. I am now confident in teaching traditional modes of writing. But beyond that, I can effectively use writing to support student learning within content areas. “Writing to learn” is what I am most passionate about now!

What will you  be doing after graduation?

I currently teach elementary school, where I am able to put my knowledge of how students learn, as well as best practices in literacy, into practice each day.

A self-contained classroom is an ideal environment to teach all strands of reading, as well as incorporate “writing to learn” within content areas. In the future, I hope to be able to translate my knowledge and experience into leadership roles.

I would love to be a literacy coach, instructional coach, or work in curriculum development. I want to take what I have learned in the UVA School of Education and Human Development and share it with others.

Note: The UVA School of Education and Human Development has reimagined its reading education programs. Beginning this summer, students interested in completing the requirements for the reading specialist endorsement will pursue the  Master of Education in reading education degree.

Class of 2024 Graduation Profiles

We invite you to get to know a few members of the UVA EHD Class of 2024 as we celebrate the accomplishments of the entire class.

News Information

Media Contact

Audrey Breen

Research Center or Department

  • Curriculum, Instruction & Special Education