As a teenager tutoring underprivileged children, Heather Hefner realized she loved encouraging children to learn, thus marking the beginning of her dream of becoming a teacher.
Hefner's commitment to making that dream come true made her an excellent choice for the Distance Makes a Difference scholarship recently awarded by Mississippi State University's Center for Distance Education.
"My goal has always been to do all I could to inspire students to be the best they can be. To motivate them to understand that they are capable of meeting any goal they set their mind to achieving," Hefner explained.
In the years following her time with underprivileged children, Hefner worked in the public and private school systems. She gained extensive experience tutoring students in the first through the eighth grades – but she was not a teacher with her own classroom. It was time to enroll in a university and secure her education degree.
Hefner began working on her degree as a full-time traditional student. She and her husband worked full-time jobs and together they were raising two children. One night the telephone rang, and it changed their lives forever.
The Hefner family was presented with the opportunity to adopt four children who needed their love and attention -- they embraced the chance and their family of four quickly became a family of eight.
The size of their family was not the only thing to change. First, Hefner had to leave her job to be available for the children, and second, she could no longer go to school full time in a traditional setting.
MSU's online Elementary Education program with a concentration in middle school was exactly what Hefner needed to keep her dream alive.
"I worried my education would have to stop but, thankfully, I found the Distance Elementary Education program at MSU!" she said. "Because I am able to set my school schedule around my responsibilities to my family, I will soon be a teacher with my own classroom!"
Joni W. Seitz