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She Saw a Sign (Literally): How a Subway Ride Changed Marci Karoll’s Life

By Elizabeth Laura Nelson

If you’ve spent much time riding the subway in New York City, you’re probably familiar with the wide variety of advertisements that line the train cars. From mattresses and storage spaces to personal injury attorneys and dermatologists (remember Dr. Zizmor?), you can find an ad for pretty much anything you need—including Touro College Graduate School of Technology.

One morning about ten years ago, Marci Karoll was commuting to work when she saw a subway ad for Touro GST’s Master’s Degree in Educational Technology.

“I’d never heard of that degree, but it defined exactly what I was doing,” said Karoll. At the time, she worked with a foundation that gave smartboards to schools. The schools then created lesson plans using the gifted smartboards and contributed those lessons to a database, creating a free resource for other educators to draw from.

A lifelong learner with a love for education and technology
Karoll, who calls herself “a lifelong learner,” always had a passion for both technology and education—something she inherited from her parents.

“My father was an early adopter of online publishing, and he knew everything. We always talked about computers—he was my go-to guy. And my mother was a teacher for 35 years,” said Karoll. Although Karoll had considered a teaching career herself, and had even taken some education courses, she didn’t feel she could afford to complete the required student teaching. “I needed an income,” she explained.

Besides, she’d followed in her father’s footsteps, becoming the “go-to” tech person herself wherever she worked. “All my jobs have involved technology in some way, shape, or form, starting with my first real job, where I had to buy a computer for the organization I worked for,” she said. “If someone couldn’t figure something out, they would always call me.”

A sign she couldn’t ignore
Seeing the Touro GST ad sparked something in Karoll—she wanted to find out more. “It was like the universe was screaming, ‘Look at this sign, you need to go to this!’” So she took a picture of the ad, looked it up online, and saw that the GST open house was that night.

“I called my husband and said, ‘I’m not coming home,’” she laughed. “I told him I’d found this open house thing and really wanted to see what it was. And I went, and I knewthat night that the program was perfect for me. It was bashert.”

With her son in high school and her daughter already off at college, the timing was right for Karoll to go back to school herself. “I didn’t have to worry about things at home; all my ducks were in a row. I signed up and loved every class. It fed my soul.”

A new degree and a new career
In May 2011, Karoll graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Touro GST. “It’s a one-year program, but I did it in a year and a halfbecause I was still working full time.” she explained.

One thing that made it easier for Karoll to work full time and pursue a graduate degree was the opportunity to take both online and in person, combining the best of synchronous and asynchronous learning methods. “I took two classes at a time: one night a week, I’d go to class at the college, and then I’d take one class at home, online,” she said.

After graduation, Karoll started looking for a new job that would utilize her new skills. The search didn’t take long, however—she got the first job she applied for, as the Director of Educational Technology at a private girls’ high school.

The “Four C’s”
In her role at the high school, where she’s been happily employed for eight years now, Karoll doesn’t just use the technology skills she learned at Touro GST. She also uses the soft skills that she was able to sharpen during her time as a student.

“There’s no question that the skills I learned in the program are things I apply every day; things like the 21st century learning skills of communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity—what educators call “the four C’s,” said Karoll.

“Everything I do focuses on at least one, if not all, of those, whether I’m showing a student how to usea tool or helping a teacher investigate a new product. My Touro education serves as the foundation for everything I do now. And I love what I do.”

An investment in yourself
Karoll encourages anyone who’s interested in education and technology to pursue his or her passion—and believes Touro GST offers a perfect opportunity to do that.

“If you love technology and you love helping people, it’s a great place to merge those,” she said. “It’s about what your goals are, and how much you want to invest in yourself. If you have the passion to do it, you should do it.”

There’s no time limit whenit comes to embarking on a new challenge, either. Karoll earned her Touro GST Master’s degree (her second graduate degree, by the way), when she turned 50. “Every job I’ve had has led me to my next phase.You have to be comfortable with change,” she said. “Technology is changing daily.”

Karoll couldn’t be more grateful for that sign on the subway during her morning commute all those years ago. “I’m not a teacher, and I don’t have a teaching certificate, yet I’m teaching people every day,” said Karoll. “My passion for helping people is part of who I am. I feel blessed to do what I do.”

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