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

Posted: October 17, 2023 8:00:00 AM CDT

Dr. Wendy McCarty with husband in Ireland.

“What is the best way for me to make a difference in the lives of more people?” Dr. Wendy McCarty asked herself 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,” Dr. McCarty, director of UNK’s Transitional Certification Program, said. 
 
In 2002, the fully online program was launched to provide students with an alternative pathway to receiving their teaching certification, while allowing the student to teach full-time in a Nebraska public school. 
 
That same year, Dr. McCarty was hired by UNK as a lecturer for the College of Education. A few years later she was encouraged to teach online courses for TCP by the then-TCP faculty member Lucille Freeman. 
 
“She wanted to make sure this program would survive,” said McCarty about 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,” Dr. McCarty said.  
 
In 2002, when the program was first launched, there were under ten students in the program. Today, thanks to dedicated faculty like Dr. McCarty, the program currently has a cohort of nearly 300 students. 

 tcp faculty in commencement robes

“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. 
 
Dr. Rebecca Nelson was hired in 2018 to assist McCarty with the growing program. She will become the program's director in Spring 2024, following Dr. McCarty’s retirement in December. 
 
“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. 
 
“I was genuinely sad to hear Dr. McCarty is retiring,” said 2018 alumna Gretchen Monroe. “I loved her determination to make sure people could do what I got to do.” 
 
Monroe was able to make a career change in her 40’s, transitioning from a career as a journalist to an English teacher thanks to UNK’s TCP, online courses, and Dr. McCarty. 
 
Dr. 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,” McCarty said. “The people I've met, the opportunities that that I've had, especially with this program, I couldn't have asked for anything better.”

By: Heidi Knake

Category: Graduate Studies, General, Education, UNK Online

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