Alumna Bethany Singer is Math Ready

Bethany smiling

Kindergarten teacher Bethany Singer says the education she received from Ball State gave her a foundation to teach math to students of all ages. Her master of arts in foundational mathematics teaching in the community college helped her shift her career in the direction she wanted.

“The classes were filled with teaching techniques that I could take back and use in my class immediately.”

Budget cuts facilitate change

After eight satisfying years of teaching middle school math at Byron Center Public Schools in southwestern Michigan, state budget cuts eliminated team teaching arrangements, resulting in longer school days, larger class rosters, and burnout for Bethany Singer.

Certified in early childhood education, she was asked to fill a teaching position in the kindergarten. Because she missed interacting with older students, Singer also found the opportunity to teach college algebra in the evenings at a local university. But after serving as an adjunct for two years, she needed a master’s degree to continue teaching at the college level.

“That was a major piece of my decision to pursue a master’s degree in math education,” says Singer.

Affordability was a factor

Affordability played a consideration in her degree search. “Ball State was very reasonably priced compared to other online programs I found,” she says.

Another factor was the feasibility of pursuing a degree with the other demands in her world.

“Working full time and being a wife and mother to two boys in elementary school required quite a bit of juggling,” says Singer, who considered only online programs before enrolling in Ball State.

Professor helped with publication

Singer says her professors were great mentors.

“The classes that Dr. Ann Leitze taught were filled with teaching techniques that I could take back and use in my class immediately,” says Singer.

After a course in which Singer and her classmates created problem-solving opportunities to use in their respective classrooms, Leitze worked with her grad students to get their project published in a national publication for math teachers.

“When a college student, middle school student, second grader, or kindergartener is in my classroom, they become a part of me,” she says. “The education I received at Ball State University has provided me with an incredible foundation to reach students at any age.”

MBA Proves You’re Driven, Motivated, Goal Oriented

Master’s of business administration (MBA) alum Matt Califar helps manage multiple power plants and oversees cash compliance, investor relations, treasury issues, and funding decisions.

“With all the rankings and recognition the program is now getting, it proves that Ball State’s MBA was a good choice for me.”


Matt Califar was a senior financial analyst in Indianapolis and only a couple years into his career when he began his search for an MBA. Because he sought a program that was exceptional and affordable, Califar chose the Ball State MBA instead of others offered locally.

His only question was whether he could pursue graduate work with a full-time job in corporate finance.

“I started out just by taking one class, and I quickly found out that I could manage what was expected of me,” says Califar, a graduate of the Ball State MBA program, which he took as a blend of online and on-site courses. “As long as you’re on top of what is required of you, it’s very manageable.”


Today Califar is senior analyst for project finance with AES Corporation, a global power company with a U.S. Strategic Business Unit in downtown Indianapolis. Having absorbed several responsibilities since joining AES, today he helps manage multiple power plants and oversees cash compliance, investor relations, treasury issues, and funding decisions, among other areas.

Califar says his employer looks for MBAs when it’s time to hire. “I think that going back and pursuing your MBA proves to people that you’re driven, you’re motivated, you’re goal-oriented,” he says.


The Ball State MBA, which is offered online, on campus, or as a blend of both, has ranked in the top 20 of the U.S. News & World Report listing of top online business and MBA programs for the last two years.

“With all the rankings and recognition the program is getting, it proves that Ball State’s MBA was a good choice for me,” he says. “If I didn’t have it, I might find myself struggling to be considered for upper-level senior positions.”

Back to School

Going back to school for her master’s in executive development and public service led Kristen Bitzegaio to the Back to School Teachers Store as the nonprofit’s new executive director.

“I believe that you shouldn’t invest your time in something that won’t excite you every day.”


Determined to find her perfect niche in the world, Kristen Bitzegaio
moved carefully toward a professional position after earning her master’s degree.

“I believe you shouldn’t invest your time in something that won’t excite you every single day,” she says.

That’s why Bitzegaio, who has a lifelong background and a passion in volunteering, believed that earning Ball State’s master of arts in executive development for public service would be essential in leading her to a fulfilling career.


“It was a huge decision to go back for my master’s,” she says.

She had been out of school for four years and was working part time. Her husband was working full-time and the couple had two children under the age of three.

Bitzegaio knew that taking on graduate work would mean cutting back on expenses while adding further commitments.

“We knew it would be worth the investment and time,” she says. Bitzegaio was also ready to take on new opportunities.


The flexibility of Ball State’s online program made it possible for her to tackle master’s work and motherhood simultaneously.

After finishing her degree in July 2014, Bitzegaio received a handful of job offers and opportunities, but she was still looking for her niche.

“I wasn’t dragging my feet, but holding out for the right fit,” she says.

Then she learned about an executive director’s position with Back to School Teachers Store, Inc., a non-profit organization in Muncie, Indiana, that provides free classroom resources to teachers in the community. It was just the kind of career fulfillment that Bitzegaio had envisioned.

“Classes that I took in my degree work included volunteer management and grant writing,” she says. “Those classes gave me some guiding principles that I could apply across all facets of fundraising and stewardship.”

‘Perfect Program’ for Studying Behavior

Carly Shappard wanted a credential that would prepare her to counsel families concerning their child’s development issues. Her career goals led her to Ball State’s online master’s in applied behavior analysis.

I enjoy watching the progress of the clients when they start doing things independently.


As a preschool teacher, Carly Shappard enjoyed parent-teacher conferences as much as any of her teaching tasks.

But she didn’t always feel prepared to talk to parents about their children’s developmental issues.

That’s when she enrolled in Ball State’s master’s in applied behavior analysis (ABA) with an emphasis in autism. She was ready for a career change and the credentials to counsel families regarding interventions, if necessary.

“The ABA program gave me a different view on the functions of each child’s behaviors,” says Shappard, who is an ABA therapist in Indianapolis. “I was able to understand why certain behaviors occurred and think of proactive ways to decrease the chances they would happen.”


A 2014 graduate of the master’s in ABA, Shappard was eligible to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam to become a board certified practitioner when she finishes the 1,500 field experience hours required of all ABA students.

In her current role as a therapist, Shappard works with three clients in their school and home settings, helping them develop daily living skills, appropriate peer and adult interaction, and for younger clients, appropriate toy play.

“I enjoy watching the progress of the clients when they start doing things independently,” she says. “I also enjoy watching a child start imitating another peer.”


Because the program was offered completely online, Shappard could balance roles as a student, wife, mother, and full-time teacher. “I could do most of my schoolwork after my son went to sleep,” says Shappard, who also earned graduate certificates in applied behavior analysis and autism.

She admits she was nervous at the beginning of the program because of her test anxieties. What helped, says Shappard, was how online classes gave studetns a block of days during which they can take quizzes and tests.

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.”


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.


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.


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.

Re-thinking Physical Education

Junior high teacher Andrea McMurtry put her focus on everyday wellness and lifelong fitness and won a National Association of Sports and Physical Education teaching award in the process. Ball State’s online master’s in coaching education helped her achieve her goals.

“I love teaching because it gives me the opportunity to share my passion for health and physical education with young people.”


Accustomed to running the four and a half miles home after her school day and throughout the neighborhood on weekends, Andrea McMurtry, a physical education teacher at Fishers Junior High in Fishers, Indiana, has always enjoyed a level of visibility in her community.

So when McMurtry won National Association of Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) Teacher of the Year for its Midwest district in 2013, she began using her visibility with educators at workshops all over the country as well as teachers in her own building and district.

“I wanted something that would make a difference in my program,” she says. In fact, the master’s degree, offered 100 percent online, helped her rethink her approach to physical education instruction.


McMurtry redesigned her district’s health and physical education curriculum so that junior high schoolers take a year-long wellness class that includes three days of 45 minutes of strenuous activity
and two days of classroom content emphasizing lifelong health and wellness.

“I want my students to enjoy being at the gym and learn to set their own fitness goals,” says McMurtry. Based on assessments recorded in their wellness books, Fishers’ students work daily to improve their levels of fitness.


The master’s program also altered her coaching philosophy, thanks to texts such as Double Goal Coaching and a web resource known as Positive Coaching Alliance, both of which promote the best practices of elite coaches and the latest research in sports psychology.

“I took those resources to heart and used them with my staff, my own teams, my son’s first grade baseball team, even with my relatives who coach,” says McMurtry, with a laugh. She was coaching three sports and teaching full time while enrolled in Ball State’s program.

The coaching education degree also made her a believer in online education. In addition to her position at Fishers Junior High, she is a lead teacher for health classes with the Indiana Online Academy. The academy provides high school classes that are developed and taught by licensed Indiana teachers for partnering schools.

Business education grad believes teaching is in his blood

Master’s in business education (for business and marketing educators) graduate Adam Coats says degree was a win-win proposition for him and his middle school students.

“I love that I can share something that I am passionate about with others to broaden their understanding. I guess teaching is in my blood.”


After Adam Coats graduated from Clemson University in 2011, he began working

for South Carolina’s Department of Social Services as a human services specialist, investigating reports of child abuse and neglect.

Although he had frequent contact with children and their families, he thought he could make a greater impact on working inside local schools. So he returned to college, earned teacher certification, and began his career as a middle school technology teacher.

For Coats, it’s more than a career. In his words, he’s “carrying the torch for an educated America.” He had only been in the classroom for a year when he decided to pursue graduate work. Researching online options, he discovered Ball State’s business and marketing education degree.


One of the distinctive features of the degree is that it offers nine different tracks. Coats chose the customizable track because it gave him 12 hours of electives. “This allowed me to take courses in a wide variety of other concentrations without limiting myself to one specialized track,” he says.

Another draw is the range of teaching tools that teachers can take into the classroom immediately. Before entering the program, Coats used YouTube and Dropbox in his lessons but on a limited basis.

“Now I use all kinds of Web 2.0 tools such as Edmodo, Glogster, Skype, and Twitter, just to name a few,” he says.


Coats, who graduated with his Ball State master’s degree in 2014, believes graduate work has kept him current with trends and research in his field. “I can share and practice these new ideas in my classroom, which is a win-win for both me and my students,” he says.

As a classroom teacher, he has found that greater influence that he desired. In his first year of teaching, one student confided in him that his family never expected him to make it off the streets. After continued conversations and encounters in which the young man shared his exciting life decisions, Coats was overwhelmed to see he had made a positive impact.

“This means more than any kind of money you can make,” he says.

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