Exceptional Needs License Gives Teacher a Position with Impact

Bethany smiling while holding a paper

Bethany Cmar
Master’s in Special Education
Director of Exceptional Needs License

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.”

Drummond pursues passion for putting students on a career path

As a workplace specialist teacher and program director for a certified nurse’s aide (C.N.A.) program, Tiffanney Drummond found her passion in helping high schoolers identify pathways to their chosen careers. So working toward a director of career and technical education (CTE) license, and doing it online, was a natural next step for Drummond to gain the skills and knowledge needed to work with all members—families, faculty, and students—involved in the search process.

“Drummond was recently recognized by Fort Wayne Business Weekly as Administrator of the Year.”

Q: Please talk about your work as the director of career and technical education.

A: I often tell my students I am not a native to education. I’m a former nurse who was inspired to pursue teaching because of the passion of my husband, a former principal. I saw the love he had for his students and his school, and I was drawn to administration because of the difference he made in the lives of his students, his staff, and his community every day. We [Huntington County Community School Corporation and the Learning Center] see ourselves as a one-stop shop for students of all ages. We offer high school vocational programs, adult college courses, adult basic education, and are home to WorkOne in Huntington County.

Q: How has your licensure from Ball State been a factor in your success?

A: Without my degree in career and technical education, I would not have had the opportunity to serve in this leadership position. I get to work with both high school and adult students in my community. My degree and certification have opened doors for me to be a thought leader, a connector, and an advocate for our students to have the best experiences possible so they can be successful in the workforce. I have used the information learned in my master’s program directly in following the requirements for CTE programming in the state of Indiana. I am able to better lead my teachers because I know what is required of us, and just as importantly, I learned how to stay abreast of current events relevant to our field.

Q: In October 2017, you were recognized by Fort Wayne Business Weekly as Administrator of the Year. How has your education at Ball State University contributed to you receiving this award?

A: My master’s degree program at Ball State very much prepared me to take on my current role in administration. My degree is in career and technical education, with a director’s license. This unique program blends CTE curriculum with other valuable administration courses.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: What I love about my job is seeing students of all ages find their passion. We are a hands-on, immersive learning environment where students can find the relevance in education. Our students can leave with college credit or dual credit, industry certifications, their high school equivalency, and hopefully, an idea of what they want to do next in life.

For example, education allows students in our machining program to travel to national competitions and visit cities they have never been to. Hard work and education allowed 100 percent of our CNA students to pass their state licensing exam last spring and immediately join the workforce. And education provides our automotive students the opportunity to learn not just how to fix a car, but how to fix a car for the charity Wheels to Prosper and give that car to a deserving member of our community.

Q: What would you tell someone considering an online CTE degree from Ball State? 

A: This degree has a very well rounded curriculum that prepares you for a future in CTE education! Additionally, I met individuals online from all over the state and the country that added to the experience. I was able to learn best practices by others currently in the field in a variety of CTE pathways. This has helped me as an administrator to have a broader knowledge base of CTE pathways outside my own wheelhouse. The biggest challenge I faced as an online student was working on my online course work while also working full time, but the online program was so flexible that honestly it made it very manageable.

Learn more about our Master’s in Career and Technical education.

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