For Hyeseok Lee and Co-workers, Ball State Becomes Online Destination

While serving as an an assistant teacher at an international academy on an island just off the southern tip of South Korea, Hyeseok Lee realized she’d need a master’s degree to continue teaching.

After extensive research, she applied and was accepted at several graduate schools with online elementary education programs but ultimately chose a program from an American school she’d never heard of: Ball State University.

“I wanted a program that gave me flexibility so I could take care of my children and work on my courses at the same time,” she says, impressed that it was “a state university with a long history.”

Ironically, when Hyeseok talked to the principal at her academy about leaving to do graduate work, she learned that her principal had graduated from the same Ball State.

Ball State Online Made it Possible

Hyeseok left the academy on the island of Jeju in 2020 so she could become a full-time mom and a part-time student in an online elementary education degree program with a concentration in early childhood.

“It is amazing to raise a child and worth so much to do it,” she says. “I like the fact that Ball State makes it possible.”

Hyeseok says it’s exciting to connect with so many people outside of Korea, and she’s become good friends with classmates.

“I love my professors as well,” she adds. “They have been helpful and knowledgeable for me to continue my learning.”

She’d Never Heard of Canvas Either

She thinks the most appealing aspect of Ball State’s online classroom is its flexibility. “I love Canvas [Ball State’s learning management system],” she says. “I’d never heard of it before but it is easy to navigate and to use.”

When students introduced themselves at the beginning of the semester, Hyeseok says some of her classmates were interested in knowing more about student life in South Korea.

First of all, she explains, the 13-hour time difference between Ball State faculty and South Korea does not impact her since classes are available when she is available—or asynchronously.

Hyeseok earned her undergraduate degree with majors in child welfare, public relations, and advertising from one of the top women’s universities in Korea.

Took Path Through Women’s Schools

In addition to attending a women’s university, she also attended a girls’ junior high and a girls’ high school.

She says the belief that education was primarily for men stems from the influence of Confucianism which held that seeking knowledge was “men’s work.” To help achieve gender equity, leaders founded Sookmyung Women’s University, Hyeseok’s alma mater, in 1906, as the first women’s university in Korea.

Home for Hyeseok is Jeju Island, a tourist destination, located 60 miles south of the mainland.

Her Home is a Vacation Destination

“Its advertising slogan is ‘Hawaii of Asia,’ and it’s the warmest place in South Korea,” says Hyeseok. She describes it as “a volcanic island with beautiful nature, beaches, and famous oranges.”

In recent decades, she says, Jeju has become known as one of busiest honeymoon and vacation destinations in the world.

Hyeseok’s detailed research for graduate schools and successful application may have paid off for some friends in South Korea, too.

Two other assistant teachers at the international academy enrolled in Ball State online degrees, based on her word of mouth alone.

 

Summer Job Leads Alissa M. to Career in Early Childhood

It was summer and college-bound Alissa Mwenelupembe needed a job. Her mother suggested she go up the street to a child care center since “she liked kids.”

Twenty years later, having devoted her life’s energies to teaching, coaching, directing, volunteering, advocating, consulting, and researching early childhood education, Alissa still likes kids.

Alissa realized she’d found her field after a couple of career-entry jobs in early childhood education. When she decided to pursue a master’s degree that specialized in child development, the closest one was in Chicago, several hours from her home and workplace in Evansville, Indiana. As a Hoosier educator, she knew that Ball State offered innovative and reputable online programs in education.

‘Online Essential for People Like Me’

“Online learning is essential for people like me who don’t have an opportunity to attend a program nearby and are working full time,” says Alissa, who eventually learned that she could pursue a fully online master’s in elementary education with a concentration in early childhood education. “Ball State met my needs 100 percent.”

For all the advantages of online programs, Alissa felt they had one drawback. “They can be lonely!” she says.

But that didn’t prevent her from making a life-changing connection with one of her professors, Dr. Linda Taylor, assistant professor of early childhood, youth, and family studies.

Met Online Mentor Face to Face

“One year I was presenting at a conference in Indianapolis, and Dr. Taylor was waiting outside of the room to meet me face to face,” says Alissa. “That was probably the most meaningful thing that happened to me during my program.”

Dr. Taylor has continued to mentor her throughout her career, she says.

Today, Alissa is the inclusion specialist with SPARK Learning Lab, a statewide technical assistance provider for Indiana early childhood education programs. In this role, she is creating tools and resources for early childhood educators across the state of Indiana.

Inclusion Drives Her Research

“Inclusion is so important to me,” says Alissa, whose research interests cover social-emotional development of Black children, primarily those living in families and communities that are not a racial match.

Convinced that Ball State is the advanced education option for Indiana educators, she is now pursuing an online Ed.D. in elementary education with an emphasis in early childhood education and cognates in diversity studies and adult education.

Alissa is co-editor of Each and Every Childhood: Teaching Pre-School with an Equity Lens, which explores topics ranging from how teachers can examine personal biases to guiding children’s conversations about identity and equity.

Provides Consulting for Today’s Educators

She also conducts workshops, presentations, and keynote talks through her private consulting firm, We Are Better Together Consulting.

“I enjoy helping teachers reflect on their work and administrators dream of new ways to retain and motivate their staff,” she says. “I believe that when directors have a strong vision, their programs will succeed.”

Says ‘Now is Moment’ for Early Childhood

After serving various roles with the National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Alissa today is a member of the Council for NAEYC Accreditation Programs for Young Children and says “right now is our moment.”

“NAEYC, and other organizations supporting early childhood educators, have come together to create a movement called ‘Power to the Profession,’ ” she says. “The goal of P2P is to professionalize the field of early childhood education so that our educators get the respect and pay that they deserve.”

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.

Teaching Excellence is Rewarded

Ball State graduate Teresa Gross, who earned her master of arts in education (MAE) in elementary education, says her recent teaching awarded from President Obama is testament to her mentors and “the amazing students who fuel my passion every day.”

“Receiving this award provides validation of my dedication and commitment to providing quality, authentic science experiences for my students.”

ELEMENTARY SCIENCE TEACHER IS PORTRAIT OF TEACHING EXCELLENCE

A teacher at Westwood Elementary in Greenwood, Indiana, Teresa Gross conducts a whirlwind of a class that stimulates fourth and fifth graders on multiple levels. They toy with experiments in hand. They brainstorm out loud in small cohorts.

At the center of the whirlwind is the urgent voice of the teacher: “As scientists we are never done! We are always ready to modify!”

A graduate of Ball State University’s all-online master of arts in education (MAE) in elementary education, Gross is the portrait of an effective classroom teacher.

INVITED TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Recognition of her classroom performance has come from students, her school district, the state of Indiana, and the White House, where in 2014 she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from President Obama. This is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to K-6 math and science teachers.

Gross is still communicating with her award-winning math and science colleagues through social media. Similar networking with classmate-educators around the U.S. was a highlight of her online master’s program, which enabled her to learn classroom trends from other parts of the country. She liked the fact that she could work independently, yet know that professors were available when she needed them.

TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION

Gross believes it’s her job to equip the next generation of teachers who will prepare their students to be global leaders. Of the relevancy of Ball State’s degree to her teaching mission, she says, “The curriculum was meaningful and authentic to my needs in my classroom.”

It’s the future scientists, future businessmen, future nurses, as well as the future teachers, who, Gross says, fuel her passion to teach. “Watching these students blossom and learn to be resourceful, independent life-long learners is the best part of my job,” she says.