Master’s in Math Student Creates Comfort Level in His Classroom

Jason smiling while seated at a desk

On teacher Jason Adler’s desk in his classroom sits a little urn labeled “Ashes of Problem Students.” Not far from those student ashes is a “Bribe Bank,” for high schoolers who might think there’s another way to get the hypothetical “A.”

Adler’s easygoing personality and his affinity for fun make him a natural teacher. But when it comes to his own academic studies, he’s a no-nonsense educator.

Adler, a summa cum laude math undergraduate and a math teacher at Southport High School near Indianapolis, earned his first graduate degree in education to qualify for his school corporation’s financial incentive. The degree also qualified him to teach dual credit, which he began doing in 2015. When the Higher Learning Commission raised its requirements for teaching dual credit, Adler began looking for the graduate program that would deliver the courses he needed.

Programs Downtown Were Not Ideal

“Living outside of Indianapolis, I could have chosen from a few on-site programs downtown, but the drive time and course availability did not seem ideal,” says Adler, who ultimately decided on Ball State’s online master’s in math education, with a secondary school teachers track.

“The program is 100 percent online, with a mixture of real-time courses—usually in the evening—and asynchronous courses,” he says, referring to online courses that he can access around his school day and family time. “Even the real-time courses are recorded so they can be viewed at a time that works better for me.”

Creates Comfortable Environment

Adler is serious about the time he invests in making his classes demanding but enjoyable.

“I think what students enjoy most about my class is the environment,” he says. “Expectations are high, but I establish a comfort level which allows students to be willing to take risks, make mistakes and even get wrong answers without fear of embarrassment.”

One of his favorite routines is transitioning between test day and introducing new material, dedicating part of a class period to using lateral thinking puzzles as “brain teasers.”

“[Students] are allowed to ask ‘yes and no’ questions to work together to figure out what is going on in the situation I described to them,” he says. “They feel like they are getting away with not doing any math, but I believe they are practicing valuable problem-solving skills in a way they enjoy.”

Graduate education has helped make Adler a creative educator.

A Program with Options

He thinks part of the appeal of Ball State’s online master’s in math education is its many options.

“Asynchronous classes can be worked around any schedule. Courses can be taken two at a time, to finish in two years, or spread out over a span of three years if needed,” says Adler, who can sound like a program recruiter for the master’s in math. “Most courses are also available multiple years in a row, which is convenient for scheduling purposes.”

Ball State Provides Balance for Teachers

He’s confident of what the university’s past is providing students who are teachers today.

“Being a historically teacher-centered college,” says Adler, “Ball State understands the balance teachers are trying to strike between our careers, our home lives, and our course work.”

High School Dropout Becomes MAE Graduate, Early Childhood Advocate

Having dropped out of high school barely into her freshman year, Tammy Carney might not have been voted most likely to earn a master’s degree in elementary education and own and operate the highest-rated childcare center achievable in Indiana.

But that was the success Carney celebrated in spring 2018 when she graduated with a Ball State master’s degree and was considering a doctorate.

“I never dreamed I could achieve any of this but I have become the leader and mentor I have always wanted to become,” says Carney, who founded Udder Angels Learning Center in Alexandria, Indiana, in 1998.

Fails First College Attempt

After leaving home and high school in upstate New York, Carney worked part-time jobs during the day and finished her GED in the evenings. Her first college attempt ended in failure. After she and her husband moved to Indiana and started a family, Carney was soon babysitting for other families. Because she wanted to provide a caregiving service that was professional, she opened in-home childcare, with a developmentally appropriate curriculum, which soon became a licensed childcare center. In the meantime, Carney earned associate and bachelor’s degrees, both in early childhood education.

In 2016 she began work on her online master’s in elementary education with an early childhood focus.

Wanted Safe Place for Children

“I felt it was important to earn my master’s degree to help me gain the knowledge to grow into the highest rated childcare center possible in Indiana,” she says. “And I wanted to give children a safe place to go where they will be loved, cherished, and accepted.”

Under Carney’s direction, Udder Angels achieved a Paths to Quality Level 4 rating, the highest indicator of quality for early education in Indiana, as well as national accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

‘Was a Matter of Discipline’

Carney says adjusting to online study was just a matter of discipline.

“I had to learn to dedicate certain days and times to studying and reading my syllabus,” says Carney. “I stayed in contact with my instructors and immediately contacted them if I had any questions. I never had an instructor who was not available to help and assist me with any concerns I had.”

Her husband, Kevin, says his wife deserves all the accolades. “Tammy has spent the last 20 years securing a better way for the children of our community,” he says.

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