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A mother’s day to celebrate: Mom of 4 graduates from Penn State with master’s degree

Maria Yoder with her family, Grant, 5, husband Michael, Cade, 3, Paul, 8 and Natalie, 9 on Sunday, May 10, 2015 at the Penn State Arboretum. Maria celebrated mothers day by also graduating with her master’s from Penn State.
Maria Yoder with her family, Grant, 5, husband Michael, Cade, 3, Paul, 8 and Natalie, 9 on Sunday, May 10, 2015 at the Penn State Arboretum. Maria celebrated mothers day by also graduating with her master’s from Penn State. CDT photo

A mom’s job description begins somewhere at changing the first diaper and ends when ...

OK, let’s be honest — a mother’s job never ends.

Some local moms like Maria Yoder added a little more to their plate the past few years. She studied, wrote papers and took exams in the few moments she could have had to herself so that she could don a cap and gown on Mother’s Day as a Penn State graduate.

Yoder, of Union Township in Mifflin County, graduated from Malone University in 1999 and went back to school five years ago to get her master’s degree. She had three children and a job at Geisinger-Lewistown when she went back to school, had a fourth child three years ago and continued working part time as a nursing instructor.

“I always wanted to do this, especially when I got my undergrad in nursing,” Yoder said. “I took my GREs after I graduated, because I was pretty sure I’d go back. Then I got married, we had kids and five years ago it seemed like I was at the right place at the right time and it could be feasible to go back to school. I started as a non-degree and just kept going.”

Yoder chipped away at her master’s degree to specialize in nursing education, taking 12 courses in 11 semesters to pursue her dream. She also made a good impression on Penn State nursing instructors like Sarah McVeigh and Mary Anne Ventura.

“She really has the heart and desire to make a significant impact on the education of future nurses,” Ventura said.

Yoder spaced out her courses to better balance home, school and work life.

“I often felt like I was shortchanging one thing and thought and hoped I did things right,” Yoder said. “I feel like it was done well, but it often felt like I tried to do too many things, but I did everything I could to divide time. There has been a lot of balancing things out and hoping I’ve balanced it well enough for my kids especially.”

Yoder’s children — Natalie, 9, Paul, 8, Grant, 5, and Cade, 3 — don’t have any complaints.

“She’s great,” Natalie said. “I like that she helps me with my homework and makes all my meals.”

Add to the to-do list taking the kids to doctor’s appointments, play dates and extracurricular activities and there was plenty on Yoder’s plate when she wasn’t doing schoolwork, which Natalie took an interest in.

“I have looked at her papers and they all look really hard,” Natalie said.

Even if it is just curiosity, it’s a good sign.

Yoder hopes she inspired her children.

“Of course, I’m big believer in education, and I hope I set a good example for them,” Yoder said. “I want them to pursue and be persistent in what they want to do. I felt it took a long time for me, and I’m glad I stuck with it.”

Now that Yoder can close her laptop and put the books away she’s looking forward to a relaxing.

“As I told my kids already, I’m working as little as I can, and we’ll enjoy a lot of time together this summer,” she said. “We haven’t made any specific plans, but we’ll do some things like swimming and small trips.”

Fewer plans and more free time in Yoder’s day-to-day life — she won’t have to schedule her time for schoolwork anymore — will be a welcome change.

She didn’t even want to schedule anything specific for Mother’s Day.

“I’d rather spend time with my family than get gifts, so I’m not really looking forward to a big present or party,” Yoder said. “I guess I get to pick where we eat for lunch for a day.”

And grab the napkins, take the kids to the bathroom and wipe their faces clean before the graduation ceremony Sunday evening.

It comes with the unwritten, endless job description of being a mother.

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