Photo courtesy of The Rachael Ray Show

Nic Zimmerman, a middle school teacher in the state of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, frequently shows Rachael Ray cooking videos in his family and consumer science classes.

Last fall, the hostess of “The Rachael Ray Show” returned the favor and invited him to demonstrate for her TV audience the correct way to cut vegetables.

A graduate of the Ball State Online master’s in career and technical education (CTE) and the family and consumer science track, Nic says Rachael Ray had caught his attention because he thinks his students and their families can relate to her.

“She takes complex recipes and makes them simple. She also takes simple recipes and makes them complex,” says Nic.

Show Was Opportunity to Advocate

His appearance on her show also gave him a national platform.

“The most exciting part of the experience was to advocate for our profession of family and consumer sciences,” he says. Nic told Rachael Ray viewers there are 27,000 FCS teachers in the country but that many more are needed.

“We are teaching essential life skills and preparing our students and community members to be successful as an individual, in their families, and ultimately as a part of their communities,” says Nic, who serves as adviser of his school’s Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) organization.

After Nic earned his bachelor’s in family and consumer sciences at Bridgewater College, also located in Shenandoah Valley, he began his teaching career and eventually sought a master’s program.

How a Virginia Teacher Found Ball State

Nic said several factors led him to Ball State Online: Professional contacts in Indiana vouched for the program. The program was less expensive, compared to others. And a couple professors were his designated points of contact for information.

For those who are considering CTE programs, this is one of program’s “most astounding features,” says Nic. “I engaged in prompt email conversations with them, and on several occasions they communicated with me via phone.”

Nic says he may have learned more about teaching than content knowledge through the program.

“Much of what I believed about CTE from undergrad was reconstructed mentally as I progressed through my master’s degree, he says. “I had to step back and complete my assignments as I was ‘thinking about the way I was thinking’ and about the way I engaged in teaching family and consumer science classes.”

Says Classmate Diversity Was Benefit

Nic said he benefited from the diversity of fields in which his online classmates worked.

“The opportunity to engage with classmates from a wide variety of perspectives was the ultimate highlight of the online platform,” he says. “Everyone shared a passion and a love for CTE. That transcends boundaries and enhanced the ability for us to grow together as an online community.”

Although Ball State Online programs require no visits to campus, Nic chose to make the eight-hour, 500-mile drive from Shenandoah County to Muncie, Ind., in the summer of 2019, to take the commencement walk. Even though he was seeing the university for the first time, he felt at home. “I felt like I had been on campus for years,” he says.

Sees Future as Curriculum Specialist

Nic plans to eventually pursue a position as a CTE curriculum specialist for a school district, noting that the Ball State curriculum encouraged collaboration with other areas such as the curriculum track.

Nic says the master’s has equipped him to help develop curriculum materials for the school division. “I’ve already had the opportunity to help write our district’s CTE class manual,” he says.