The College of Sciences and Humanities boasts many successful alumni who are using their Ball State skills to contribute to professions within their field. We celebrate their successes and the preparation of a Ball State education in our Cardinal Directions series.
Hi, I’m MacKenzie Cox and I graduated from Ball State University in May 2015. I was a Secondary Mathematics Education major. I am originally from Centerville, Indiana and have spent the last six years teaching in schools in Wayne County, Indiana. Most recently, I taught Geometry, Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, Quantitative Reasoning, Finite Mathematics, AP Statistics, and Calculus at Lincoln Middle/High School in Cambridge City, Indiana.
Tell us about your current job. Day-to-day? Any long-term projects?
Currently, I am the Secondary Mathematics Specialist at the Indiana Department of Education. Right now, I am working with our teachers on STEM initiatives across the state as well as working with a team within the IDOE to rewrite and reprioritize our STEM Framework. I will also work on future standards review, dual credit credentialing, and other work that directly affects the teachers and students in Indiana.
Describe your career path. How did you get where you are?
After graduation, I worked at Richmond High School in Richmond, Indiana for one year. I then moved to Lincoln, where I was able to spread my wings and explore many different content areas due to our small school and small Mathematics Department. I quickly became the dual credit math teacher and even brought two new courses to Lincoln last year (Quantitative Reasoning and Finite). I greatly enjoyed working with my students. I loved seeing my students make the connections between content areas, something I got a front row seat to because of the many courses I taught.
As a young preservice teacher, I dreamed of working in public office on behalf of educators and students everywhere. When I got an email about the opening for a Secondary Mathematics Specialist, I applied the same day. This was what I had been dreaming of for years. And here I am today, living that dream.
How have you grown and learned in the successive roles that lead you to your current position?
During my year at Richmond, I learned that relationships matter. You are the best version of yourself when each student knows how much you value them. I took that with me to Lincoln and learned that mistakes will be made. Last year, my classes and I counted all the mistakes I made (forgetting to share my screen, dropping a negative, calling a student the wrong name, etc.) and we hit about 2,000. We would not have felt comfortable counting those if I had not cultivated meaningful relationships. Those two lessons have led me to this position today. I will get to create the best relationships with other IDOE employees, educators across our state, and students in classrooms physically and virtually. I also know that I will make mistakes. This is my first “office job” ever and I know that comes with its own challenges. But it also comes with so much freedom. My supervisor calls this position “the best sabbatical ever.” I am so excited to learn and grow in this new job.
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
Right now, I am still fairly new to the IDOE. So far, the most fulfilling part has been being a voice for rural schools and advocating for educators and students in those locations. I have a lot of ideas about how to make education better for all and to advocate for meaningful change. Having a seat at the table to let my thoughts potentially become a reality is really rewarding.
What are the most valuable skills you learned as a Ball State College of Sciences and Humanities student? How have they helped you?
The most important lesson I learned was how to self-advocate. There were many classes that I knew were going to be challenges for me and I had to learn rather quickly how to push my pride aside and ask for the help I needed. For me, it was a journey from weakness to strength. I had to teach myself that asking for help, making mistakes, and needing to review were not signs that I was not good enough; instead, they were signs that I knew myself well enough to support my educational endeavors appropriately. Post-graduation, that lesson obviously translated well into a classroom setting. Because I had learned to support myself, I was better able to support my students. I was better able to take on the tasks my admin assigned. I was a better teacher.
Were there any professors, classes, or professional opportunities that had particularly significant impacts on you?
There are so many professors who changed my life while at Ball State. To this day, I will often tell my brother (Ball State Class of 2016) how I wish I could return to relive those four years in Robert Bell.
Some professors that made a profound impact on me include Dr. Elizabeth Bremigan, Dr. Ralph Bremigan, Mrs. Crystal Lorch, Dr. John Lorch, Mrs. LeAnn Neel-Romine, and Dr. Hanspeter Fischer all pushed me to be the best I could and taught me invaluable lessons about calculus and compassion, the unit circle and being a well-rounded educator, and proof writing and creating engaging lessons.
What advice do you have for current or future Mathematics Education majors who may hope to follow your career path?
As undergraduates, I think the natural thought is to become a teacher and for that to be your life goal. But what I think we all need to remember is that teaching is not confined to a classroom. It is not even restricted to a school building. Teaching and learning are both lifelong pursuits and giving yourself permission to do those things beyond what you see as “traditional” is the most freeing feeling ever. That would be my advice to current and future students. Allow yourself to see teaching as something that can transcend the classroom and you will always find happiness.
For more information about the Department of Mathematical Sciences, visit our website or contact our office.