Amanda Cleary says she’s wanted to be a schoolteacher since she was 4 years old.
“I had a pretend classroom in my playroom when I was little and taught my teddy bears,” she says.
For her, a treat was taking a trip with her mom to the teacher supply store.
After Cleary earned her bachelor’s degree from Purdue-North Central, her childhood fantasy became reality. Since graduation in 2006, Cleary has taught in the Duneland School Corporation in Chesterton, Indiana. For the last seven years, she’s worked in Jackson Elementary School, the same elementary school she once attended.
Two years into her classroom career, Cleary began researching master’s programs. One requirement for her was finding a program that could accommodate after-school duties such as writing lesson plans, mentoring students, and attending committee meetings.
“I did not see it fair to my career and students to have to rush off each day after school to class,” says Cleary.
Ball State’s master’s in elementary education was perfect for her because the program is offered 100 percent online. “I could get my classwork finished late at night—I’m a night owl—or on the weekend,” she says.
Cleary also found that taking online classes meant learning new ways to communicate with classmates who were also teachers.
“It was a little strange not ever seeing in person any of my classmates or professors,” she says. “But everyone always responded quickly, which made conversations easier.”
Pursuing grad school after a couple years in the classroom was perfect timing because it gave her professional experience to share with her peers.
Reading has been a subject of great interest for Cleary ever since she earned a reading license as an undergraduate. Her favorite class in the master’s program was EDRD 610 Teaching Reading in Elementary Schools. In that class, she learned how to design a class website for her second-graders and introduce them to new sites they could interact with.
From 2010 through spring of 2013, Cleary served as vice president, president-elect, and president of the Indiana State Reading Association, a statewide organization of literacy professionals promoting and supporting reading.
Cleary notes that she is with her “second grade friends” eight hours each day for 180 days each year and wants to inspire in them the love of learning.
“I owe it to my students to be the best I can be and to know all of the current research on teaching practices,” she says. “I want them to know that they can always, even years from now, count on me to be there for them.”
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