As a special education teacher in an elementary school classroom, Bethany Cmar encountered a student struggling to understand the nature of elapsed time. This youngster, for example, thought that in a competition, the higher time was the winning time.
It was only when she learned her student was a race fan that she could explain how, to win a race, drivers needed to record lower times.
“This confirmed my belief that knowing your students is imperative in teaching your students,” she says.
She Wanted a Bigger Classroom
The realization also pushed her toward a broader role in the field of education. “As a special education administrator,” says Cmar, “I knew my impact would reach many more students and their families.”
Because special education administration had been her goal as an undergraduate, Cmar began work on Ball State’s master’s in special education, offered fully online, while teaching elementary school which led her to the director of exceptional needs license, also provided fully online.
“The only apprehension I had was learning the expectations of new instructors and the layout of online content,” she says. “I didn’t really have difficulties with the technology.”
Touching those with Exceptional Needs
Today Cmar is assistant director of special services at Anderson Community Schools (ACS) in Anderson, Indiana, where her decisions can touch nearly 1,600 students, since 22 percent of the 7,000 students in the district receive special education services.
Her office serves students with speech impairments, cognitive disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, emotional disabilities, and those on the autism spectrum.
In 2017 she became assistant director of special services for ACS, having become a math and language arts special education teacher for an ACS middle school in 2013 and special education administrative designee in 2014.
“Ball State Prepared Me to Lead”
“Whether looking at curriculum, programming, or staffing, I feel Ball State University prepared me to be an educational leader,” says Cmar.
Although her position is mostly administrative—overseeing compliance, seeking funding from the Department of Education, providing training for staff, hiring educators, and assisting her director and teachers daily—soft skills are also necessary.
“Working with teachers, families, and other community members is the best part of my job,” says Cmar. “Getting to know students and their families requires being out in the community and letting students see you as a person, not just a school employee.”
Support Systems for Adult Students
She believes relationships with students and families helps educators “create a support system to help students achieve great goals.”
Cmar remembers having her own support system when she began work on her bachelor’s degree as a first-generation adult student, who was 30 years old, married, and the mother of two.
“Ball State professors always made me feel valued as a student, educator, and future educational leader,” she says. “There was never a time when I thought about quitting my journey.”