Teaching Excellence is Rewarded

Westwood Elementary Teacher Teresa Gross

Ball State graduate Teresa Gross, who earned her master of arts in education (MAE) in elementary education, says her recent teaching awarded from President Obama is testament to her mentors and “the amazing students who fuel my passion every day.”

“Receiving this award provides validation of my dedication and commitment to providing quality, authentic science experiences for my students.”


A teacher at Westwood Elementary in Greenwood, Indiana, Teresa Gross conducts a whirlwind of a class that stimulates fourth and fifth graders on multiple levels. They toy with experiments in hand. They brainstorm out loud in small cohorts.

At the center of the whirlwind is the urgent voice of the teacher: “As scientists we are never done! We are always ready to modify!”

A graduate of Ball State University’s all-online master of arts in education (MAE) in elementary education, Gross is the portrait of an effective classroom teacher.


Recognition of her classroom performance has come from students, her school district, the state of Indiana, and the White House, where in 2014 she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from President Obama. This is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to K-6 math and science teachers.

Gross is still communicating with her award-winning math and science colleagues through social media. Similar networking with classmate-educators around the U.S. was a highlight of her online master’s program, which enabled her to learn classroom trends from other parts of the country. She liked the fact that she could work independently, yet know that professors were available when she needed them.


Gross believes it’s her job to equip the next generation of teachers who will prepare their students to be global leaders. Of the relevancy of Ball State’s degree to her teaching mission, she says, “The curriculum was meaningful and authentic to my needs in my classroom.”

It’s the future scientists, future businessmen, future nurses, as well as the future teachers, who, Gross says, fuel her passion to teach. “Watching these students blossom and learn to be resourceful, independent life-long learners is the best part of my job,” she says.

Re-thinking Physical Education

Junior high teacher Andrea McMurtry put her focus on everyday wellness and lifelong fitness and won a National Association of Sports and Physical Education teaching award in the process. Ball State’s online master’s in coaching education helped her achieve her goals.

“I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to share my passion for health and physical education with young people.”


Accustomed to running the four and a half miles home after her school day and throughout the neighborhood on weekends, Andrea McMurtry, a physical education teacher at Fishers Junior High in Fishers, Indiana, has always enjoyed a level of visibility in her community.

So when McMurtry won National Association of Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) Teacher of the Year for its Midwest district in 2013, she began using her visibility with educators at workshops all over the country as well as teachers in her own building and district.

“I wanted something that would make a difference in my program,” she says. In fact, the master’s degree, offered 100 percent online, helped her rethink her approach to physical education instruction.


McMurtry redesigned her district’s health and physical education curriculum so that junior high schoolers take a year-long wellness class that includes three days of 45 minutes of strenuous activity
and two days of classroom content emphasizing lifelong health and wellness.

“I want my students to enjoy being at the gym and learn to set their own fitness goals,” says McMurtry. Based on assessments recorded in their wellness books, Fishers’ students work daily to improve their levels of fitness.


The master’s program also altered her coaching philosophy, thanks to texts such as Double Goal Coaching and a web resource known as Positive Coaching Alliance, both of which promote the best practices of elite coaches and the latest research in sports psychology.

“I took those resources to heart and used them with my staff, my own teams, my son’s first grade baseball team, even with my relatives who coach,” says McMurtry, with a laugh. She was coaching three sports and teaching full time while enrolled in Ball State’s program.

The coaching education degree also made her a believer in online education. In addition to her position at Fishers Junior High, she is a lead teacher for health classes with the Indiana Online Academy. The academy provides high school classes that are developed and taught by licensed Indiana teachers for partnering schools.