As a kindergartner, Jennifer McCormick said she was convinced she was going to be a race car driver.
Later in life, she thought about becoming a chemist.
Today, the 1996 Ball State alumna is far from the racetrack and not in a chemistry lab — instead, she has climbed the educational ladder to Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“Growing up, I had a lot of different goals,” McCormick said. “[Race car driving] certainly didn’t work out for me.”
McCormick’s passion for education sparked when she was working in her high school’s special education department.
After much thought, McCormick decided to pursue special education, first at Purdue University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1993. Following, she received a master’s degree in special education from Ball State in 1996 and her school administrator license in 2000.
“Ball State had a great special education department,” McCormick said. “They also had a wonderful reputation for educational leadership, so that was obviously a big pull which got me to Ball State.”
Over the course of her career, McCormick spent 10 years as a middle school language arts teacher, three years as the principal of Yorktown Elementary School, three years as the assistant superintendent for Yorktown Community Schools, and seven and a half years as the Indiana Superintendent.
“Teaching is a very complex and difficult job,” McCormick said. “But I feel like I was well prepared, and I had a great experience.”
In her position as superintendent, McCormick said she and her team are “focusing more of [their] efforts toward making sure the most at risk get an equitable experience.” She also said she plays a large role in leadership development, the STEM field, career tech and literacy.
“We are more in the field,” McCormick said. “We do a lot of on-site visits to make sure we are better serving schools.”
McCormick said these visits are something she loves most about her job, and the days she gets to go into classrooms are “really good days.”
Alongside her duties of improving classrooms, McCormick said she also helps provide guidance and information to legislators during legislative season. She gets to help “improve bad bills and support the good ones.”
“The biggest learning curve is understanding the politics,” McCormick said. “When you don’t come from this world — it took a minute to figure out that the approach I was using at the local level as far as transparency, it wasn’t as politically driven.”
Because McCormick has served at every level of education from K-12, she said she was blessed to have gained many personal and professional mentors.
“[McCormick] is very bright, she’s very hardworking and she is very honest,” said Marsha Bugalla, a colleague of McCormicks since Jan. 2017 and the general counsel for the Indiana Department of Education. “What she says is what she means.”
Bugalla also said McCormick is driven to always do the right thing because she truly cares about the children, educators and staff in Indiana.
“I obviously love serving kids, and I am very proud to work with a really great competent team at the Department of Education,” McCormick said. “I’m honored to serve the millions of students, educators and schools of Indiana.”
Moving forward, McCormick said she would like to continue serving kids, whether that be in K-12, higher education, a foundation or a business.
“Education is extremely important to me,” McCormick said.