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General Studies Student Imagines New Career

Tony Upchurch
“I have always loved history. The lure to being able to teach high school kids history was really overpowering.”

Tony Upchurch, bachelor's degree student and future teacher


When 49-year-old Tony Upchurch imagined himself as a high school history teacher, one big barrier stood in his way: a bachelor’s degree.

“I hadn’t been to school for 30 years,” says Upchurch. But his desire to teach trumped any uncertainty.

“I have always loved history,” says Upchurch, who is earning his Ball State bachelor of general studies degree online before he pursues teaching licensure. “The lure to being able to teach high school kids history was really overpowering.”

It was overpowering enough to help him overcome another apprehension: taking classes online. In fact, his apprehensions have been a driving force.

“For me, it makes me study harder,” he says. “It’s made me a better student.”

As an online student, Upchurch has mastered classroom tools such as Blackboard, Ball State’s course-management system and the online equivalent of the university classroom. Through Blackboard, students can access their online courses and participate in discussion forums, take tests and quizzes, and submit assignments.

“Blackboard is the main tool I use,” says Upchurch. “After you do one assignment in a course, it is just like riding a bike.”

After Upchurch graduated from high school in 1981, he attended a community college for a year. When job opportunities came along, he put college on hold and eventually worked in management for several local businesses. Today he is business manager at The Car Company, an auto dealership in Warsaw, Indiana.

Upchurch says his girlfriend, who is pursuing Ball State’s master’s degree in educational administration and supervision online, inspired him to get back on a degree track.

Upchurch also has the support of his son, Jarret, who attends college in Ohio.

“We will compare notes every now and then,” says Upchurch, who knows that his son is proud of Dad’s pursuit of a college diploma. “It's weird that I am his father but I am also a college student. On that level, it’s pretty cool. We have something in common.”

Upchurch, who began his general studies degree in fall of 2011, estimates that he will graduate by 2015, but he hopes to squeeze in more classes to finish the program faster. In the meantime, he will continue to participate in programs of the National Education Association and as a student member in the Indiana State Teachers Association.

Although online programs such as the bachelor of general studies have no on-campus requirements, students still have the opportunity to participate in their field’s professional organizations on or off campus.

And imagine a whole new future.