How her dream of teaching came true for Sheri Bettis


Sometimes it can honestly be said that UIS helps students’ dreams come true.

Normal resident Sheri Bettis discovered her dream career after her second year of college. She had grown up in a non-traditional family troubled with alcoholism and abuse, but she rose above that to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.

“When I started college,” she says, “I had the idea I had to make a huge impact. For me, that meant becoming a CPA.”

But two years into college, Sheri knew she had made a mistake. What she really wanted was to teach.

The dream would have to wait

Unfortunately, her counselor informed Sheri that the teaching program had so many requirements that to become a teacher Sheri would have to discard her first two years and start college all over again.

“I was a first-generation college student doing this all through loans,” Sheri says. “There was no way I could make that change.”

So Sheri switched instead to Business/Human Resources and for ten years after graduating, she worked at State Farm writing and editing training manuals. Then, for the next fourteen years, she operated a daycare center out of her home.

But that dream of teaching had a hold on her heart, and she just couldn’t let it go.

In her early 40’s, Sheri finally admitted that she would never be completely happy unless she was teaching.

But how could she get her teaching credential? She couldn’t drop everything to attend her local college for two years. Her family needed the income from her daycare program.

Enter UIS…

“So I did some searching,” she says, “and found UIS.”

The online teaching certificate program at UIS checked all her boxes—a reasonable cost, the opportunity to keep working while taking classes and the willingness of professors to help her fast-track the program.

“I had a family with two small children,” she says, “a house and all that went with being a homeowner, and at the time my grandma was dying, so I had a lot on my plate—including the need to keep making money.”

With the help of her family (“My husband is a rock star—dinners helping with the kids, and family stepping in when they needed to”), Sheri began working her way through the program.

“Nap times during daycare were instrumental for me getting my homework done!” she says.

“Doing this at UIS was the best experience, especially working with Dr. Cindy Wilson,” she says. “In fact, I didn’t have a negative experience with any professor or any person at UIS at all. Any time I had a situation, I contacted the professor and just said, Hey, listen. My kid has been sick and had a 104 fever for three days, so I didn’t get this turned in. They were great at working with me on those real life problem situations.”

Even Sheri’s student teaching worked out well, and her principal said she would be happy to work with UIS again.

Finding the school where she belongs

Today Sheri has completed her certificate and is teaching sixth grade English and social studies at Bloomington Junior High School, where she did her student teaching.

I thought I wanted to teach high school,” she admits, “and wanted to work my way up to teaching Honors English.”

But UIS requires students in the teaching program to get observation hours in lots of different schools and many grade levels.

“What a great idea,” Sheri says. “I discovered I really like middle school. My own years at that age were not good, and with so many family problems, I made a lot of bad choices. Because of that, I can understand what a lot of the kids are going through and can help them.”

Bloomington Junior High School is a lower income school, and she has been thrilled to get a permanent job there. “A lot of the kids have serious emotional problems, and I can help them. This is where my heart fits.”

How her life has changed

Doing work she loves has made all the difference for Sheri. She knows her students need her, and she needs them.

“I have had many jobs,” Sheri says, “and I remember many mornings waking up and thinking, I just don’t want to do it. Not today. I never have that feeling now.”

Something must be working well: On April 12, 2016, Sheri received the Illinois Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Outstanding Beginning Teacher Award.

“Since I have become a teacher,” she says, “everything has been positive and great.”

The only hard part of her job is seeing kids with real-life problems—living with an alcoholic, abusive father, a mother who doesn’t care if they came to school—and being unable to help them. She tells her own story to students so they can know they have the power to have those problems stop with them as they did with her.

Not surprisingly, her favorite poem to teach is Robert Frost’s “A Road Less Travelled”—which is all about choices. “I try to remind them that for most of their life their future is in their own hands,” she says.

This year, Sheri has begun working on her master’s degree at a local college—online again. She hopes one day to be an administrator.

She says in her new online program she already misses UIS, but perhaps that’s because when she had a dream, UIS offered what she needed to achieve it.