Huge impacts lead to hard goodbyes: Wendy McCarty retires after 21 years at UNK

UNK Online

KEARNEY – What is the best way for me to make a difference in the lives of more people?

Wendy McCarty asked herself that question decades ago as a young teacher.

“As a teacher, you get to impact your students in small batches, but if you can make a difference with future teachers, then you are making a difference within many classrooms,” said McCarty, director of the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Transitional Certification Program (TCP).

Launched in 2002, the fully online program provides people with an alternative pathway to receiving their teaching certification, allowing them to start teaching full time in a Nebraska school while completing the requirements.

That same year, McCarty was hired as a lecturer in the UNK College of Education. A few years later, she was encouraged to teach online courses for TCP by then-faculty member Lucille Freeman.

“She wanted to make sure this program would survive,” McCarty said of the late Freeman. “She wanted to put it into the hands of someone who would take care of it, help it grow, and not let it die. And she said that’s why she came to me.”

In 2011, McCarty was encouraged to become TCP’s director. Not only did she keep the program alive, but she helped it thrive.

“The program started very small,” McCarty noted.

Fewer than 10 students were enrolled in 2002. Now, the program has a cohort of nearly 300 students.

“Every year, the program began to grow, and it became very evident that we needed to have another full-time faculty person dedicated to this program. And that’s when Rebecca was hired,” McCarty explained.

Rebecca Nelson was hired in 2018 to assist McCarty with the growing program. She will become the program’s director in spring 2024, following McCarty’s retirement this month.

“I feel like I’m able to hand something off to Rebecca that I know she is willing and capable of moving forward. I feel confident that the program quality will continue,” McCarty said.

McCarty feels “a sense of accomplishment” with her goal of impacting as many classrooms as possible, and now she is looking forward to spending more time volunteering and traveling with her husband.

“For me to be able to finish my career in education here, I don’t think I could have asked for anything better,” she said. “The people I’ve met, the opportunities that I’ve had, especially with this program, I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”