Dr. Janet Eckerson has “been on the whole journey” with UNK online Spanish Education M.A.Ed. graduate Brenda Lopez Adame

Posted: May 22, 2023 8:00:00 AM CDT

Two women in graduation attire.

When Brenda Lopez Adame graduated from high school, she did not see a career in education in her future, but a high school teacher saw her potential and would not let her get away from a true calling that easily. 
“My high school teacher was Janet Eckerson,” Lopez Adame explained. “She was the one that asked me, ‘Have you considered teaching?’ And I was like, ‘Absolutely not.’” 
Little did Lopez Adame know; her former high school teacher would hold many different roles in her life and become a pivotal figure in her career and educational journey. 
“We have such a long history together,” Dr. Janet Eckerson, Assistant Professor of Spanish Education and the Graduate Program Chair for Modern Languages at the University of Nebraska at Kearney said. “Brenda was my student in Spanish for Spanish speakers classes at Crete High when I was a teacher there.”   
Lopez Adame was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and raised in Crete, Nebraska. After high school, she still did not want to become a teacher and studied business at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. During this time, Lopez Adame spent a lot of time volunteering at local schools.

“Being in schools was just a hobby and something I enjoyed doing on the side,” Lopez Adame said.  

After a few business courses, she realized that her hobby was really a passion she wanted to explore deeper.  
“I reached out to Dr. Eckerson and was like, ‘You know, maybe I do want to do this teaching thing,’” Lopez Adame said. 
Dr. Eckerson was thrilled to mentor Lopez Adame through becoming a Spanish educator. 
“Shortly after Brenda went to UNL to study to become a Spanish teacher, I started working in Lincoln at Lincoln High where I was able to host her student teaching in my classroom at Lincoln High,” Dr. Eckerson said. “Once she graduated, as Department Chair, I was so fortunate to be able to help hire her to be my colleague! We even shared a classroom before I came to UNK – and of course, I helped talk her into our master's program, the Spanish M.A.Ed." 

Woman with graduate.
With Dr. Eckerson’s encouragement and Lopez Adame’s goal of one day getting her doctorate, Lopez Adame enrolled into UNK’s online Spanish Education M.A.Ed. program. To prepare for a doctoral program, Lopez Adame decided to write a thesis and Dr. Eckerson was the chair of her thesis committee.  
“I decided to write a thesis on heritage speakers and dictations,” Lopez Adame said. “And because of that, I've had opportunities here at the school district to be able to teach groups of teachers and showcase what I have found in my study. I think it has brought a lot of professional learning within my district.” 

Lopez Adame’s time in UNK’s master’s program has not only benefited her and her district, but also her students.  
“A lot of the assignments were creating something that you can use in your classroom. I think that was really helpful,” Lope Adame said.  
Lopez Adame was attracted to UNK’s program because it was fully online, allowing her the flexibility needed as a full-time teacher. 
“Even though it’s online, you still get to know your professors,” Lopez Adame said. “We would have meetings once a week where we could actually see each other and have discussions. I think it was surprising that you were still able to build a connection with the professors and have it seem like it was in-person, but it was online.” 
The format of the program allows students to form new connections and continue old ones, like the relationship Lopez Adame and Dr. Eckerson had already established. 
“She’s been on the whole journey,” Lopez Adame said. “She's really good at building relationships with students. Having that relationship already built, it was really easy to follow her recommendations. She is so knowledgeable that I didn't question her advice.” 
Lopez Adame graduated with her Spanish Education M.A.Ed. at UNK’s Spring 2023 commencement ceremony. 

Spanish Teacher in classroom.
“It’s funny, I often think about how much the same characteristics I saw in her as a high school student are the ones that are helping her walk across the stage with a graduate degree,” Dr. Eckerson said. “She’s so determined, persistent and willing to put in the work, even when there are obstacles; and she’s always been that way! I’ve also seen her grow up, in the sense of her confidence and poise, both as a teacher and as a scholar.” 
Dr. Eckerson performed her final act in mentoring Lopez Adame through her master’s degree by hooding her at commencement.  
“I’m so incredibly proud of Brenda and grateful I get to be a part of another of her amazing achievements,” Dr. Eckerson said. “It’s so wonderful to see her continued success.” 
Lopez Adame gives a lot of credit for her continued success to Dr. Eckerson. 
“Teaching Spanish for heritage speakers, that's been my passion is teaching those type of classes because I want to give back,” Lopez Adame said. “Dr. Eckerson was such an important part of my life and I feel like she helped me achieve a lot of what I've achieved, I want to do that for other students as well.” 

By: Heidi Knake

Category: Graduate Studies, General, Education, UNK Online

Power of the Herd. Top 10 University Best Midwest Public Universities | US News Rankings | Only in Nebraska a campaign for our future Power of the Herd. Be Bold. Top 10 University Best Midwest Public Universities | US News Rankings