Timely Counsel with Faculty Helps Clemons Finish Bachelor’s

Vonda Clemons smiles in front of a school bulletin board

“When professors go out of their way to try to reach their students and understand them as individuals, it speaks volumes,” says Vonda Clemons, who—with consultation from faculty and advisors—recently earned her Ball State bachelor’s online in early childhood education.

After earning an associate degree, Vonda left college for a few years before deciding to finish her bachelor’s degree at another Indiana school. She found the school was not a good fit and resumed her search.

Then She Looked at Ball State

When she inquired about Ball State’s bachelor’s in early childhood, she says a counselor made the transfer process easy. “She laid out the classes and made sure that I took the right classes in the right semester,” says Vonda, who is now a master teacher at TRC Head Start in Anderson, Indiana, for students ages 3 through 5. “When I emailed her about anything, she would get back to me in a timely matter.”

Another professor helped her decide whether she wanted to pursue licensure. Another set up weekly Zoom meetings to offer help with assignments.

Ball State’s program is designed specifically for child care professionals like Vonda, who have an associate degree in early childhood education, and are seeking positions that do not require a teaching license.

T.E.A.C.H. Made Tuition Affordable

“I worked full-time while pursuing my degree,” she says. “I knew I had to work so the online early childhood degree was a great fit for me.”

With her financial aid nearly spent by the end of her junior year, Vonda applied for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship, a program designed to compensate qualifying students who demonstrate a commitment to the field of early childhood education. She says T.E.A.C.H. paid 90 percent of her tuition and books and provided a $50 stipend each semester.

“The T.E.A.C.H. scholarship allowed me to take classes that I would not have been able to afford at the time,” she says. T.E.A.C.H. counselors helped her get a waiver that allowed her to take more than two classes at a time.

Practicum Led to Teaching Position

Vonda completed her practicum at TRC Head Start, where she was initially hired as a teacher’s assistant. “I felt blessed to be able to do my practicum at my job and still get paid,” she says. “I became friends with the lead teacher, and she is now my supervisor.”

During the pandemic, Vonda taught virtual classes for two years, took her students and their families on virtual field trips, and connected them to the EPIC book club, a popular learning and reading platform, which introduces young readers to books in all languages and genres.

Wants to Make Greatest Impact

She also learned to enrich her classroom through DonorsChoose, a charity that funds requests for books, class trips, and supplies from teachers across the country.

Vonda knows her bachelor’s degree means opportunities for the future. “I enjoy working with families,” says Vonda, who is considering a master’s degree. “And I want to work in my community where I know I can have the greatest impact.”

TEACH Scholarship Making Degree Possible for Soanirina DeJong

After working as a certified nurse’s assistant, a front-desk receptionist, a Dairy Queen manager, and an instructor’s aide, Soanirina DeJong is on her way to a teaching career with the class she holds in highest regard.

Soanirina is lead teacher at a child care center in Lafayette, Ind., and enrolled in Ball State’s online bachelor’s in family and child: early childhood education.

Her work assisting in such classrooms has led to her prepare to teach early childhood. “I have always wanted to teach, but these experiences have reignited a passion to pursue teaching young children,” says Soanirina, a junior.

“We’re More than Glorified Babysitters”

She wonders why early early childhood teachers don’t get the credit that elementary and secondary grades teachers do. “In early childhood education, the typical thought is that we are nothing more than ‘glorified babysitters’ which is unfortunate,” she says. “Early childhood education is so much more.”

Soanirina earned her associate degree in early childhood from Ivy Tech in Lafayette through the TSAP (Transfer Single Articulation Pathway) program, which allows students to easily transfer into a corresponding bachelor’s degree at Ball State with junior-year status.

She also qualified for a Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) scholarship which is available to early childhood professionals in Indiana. The scholarship covers most of the student’s tuition and costs for books.

Helped Her Transition to Lead Teacher

“T.E.A.C.H. made it possible for me to go back to school and pursue a career that I was passionate about,” says Soanirina, who, while pursuing the bachelor’s, has transitioned from a teacher’s aide position to hers as lead teacher.

Ball State is one of few public universities in Indiana offering an online bachelor’s degree in family and child: early childhood education.  For Soanirina, one benefit has been the opportunity to use tools and materials from the bachelor’s program in her current classroom.

Like many in the program, she works full time, while studying part time, taking two classes each term.

Says Discussion Board is a Listening Platform

One of her favorite online tools is the discussion boards. “The discussions boards really serve as a platform to ‘listen’ to other people’s experiences and their opinions on the current discussion or question,” she says.

Soanirina says she “talks regularly” with some of her online professors. “I always make it a point to ask questions when I do not understand something,” she says.

The feedback, says Soanirina, can be very reassuring. “This helps me gain confidence in myself and teaches me that educators and teaching professionals are always learners, too,” she says.

Early Childhood Teacher Finds Confidence Online

Iva Sumwalt wasn’t sure that online education was for her – she considered herself a traditional student who could only be successful in a classroom setting. Plus, she was juggling a full-time job and her family with her education. However, when she found Ball State’s bachelor’s degree completion program in early childhood education, she knew she’d found the right fit.

“Ball State’s tuition was less, which was an important factor. And the program allows you to do your classroom observations and practicum at your own site, so you don’t lose work, time, or money.”

Q: Why did you choose this program?

It sparked my interest that this was a program designed for childcare professionals who work full time and because the professors who are teaching the online classes are the same early childhood faculty who are teaching classes on campus.

Ball State’s tuition was less, which was an important factor. And the program allows you to do your classroom observations and practicum at your own site, so you don’t lose work, time, or money.

Q: Any surprises?

This program made me believe that I could actually do this – that I could get a degree online. I had to motivate myself to succeed, and I was responsible for effectively managing my time and resources. I’m “old school” and I thought I needed face-to-face instruction all the time, but I learned that I can take classes without sitting in front of a professor.

I also connected more to classmates online than I would have in a traditional classroom. I was able to connect with them on an individual basis because we were working in the same field.
I was also surprised that I didn’t have to be a computer expert to complete these classes.

Q: Why was online education right for you?

Online education was right for me because I had to commit and follow through. Flexibility is another great advantage. I could access my courses anytime and anywhere as long as I had Internet. I could pause videos of lectures so that I could write notes down and then go back to the lecture.

Q: Were there faculty or advisors who were particularly helpful? 

My advisor, Katie Benson, was great. She kept me updated with class information and on what to expect in the upcoming semesters.

The faculty were great, too. They understood me as a person and a full-time employee. I had a few professors for multiple classes and got to know them quite well. Sometimes they would email me to see how I was doing in my classes and that meant a lot to me.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial
Exit mobile version