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.