Ozarks and the JLC convert a reluctant Texas native

Release Date: 12/21/2012

Maegan Bell, a senior early childhood education major from Dallas, Texas, didn't always consider Ozarks her home. But four years later, she is an avid champion for Ozarks and the Jones Learning Center.

"I graduated from a high school in Dallas that works with students who have learning disabilities," Bell explained. "My guidance counselor there recommended University of the Ozarks and the Jones Learning Center." The Jones Learning Center (JLC) is a special program at Ozarks which provides individualized support for students who have documented learning disabilities or AD HD.

Maegan Bell

Maegan Bell, a senior early childhood education major from Dallas, Texas is an avid champion for Ozarks and the Jones Learning Center.

Bell was apprehensive at first. She wasn't excited about moving from the bustling metropolis of Dallas to a quaint town of 8,000 people.

"I made a lot of friends right off the bat, which I didn't expect," she said. "Coming from a big city to a small town, I thought everyone here would be weird. It didn't turn out like that at all. There were a lot of cool people that I connected with right away."

But even though Bell enjoyed her first year at Ozarks and her grades were good, she still considered transferring from Ozarks.

"After that first year, I talked myself out of coming back to Ozarks," she admits. "I thought that I would rather be closer to home. I actually applied and was accepted to a school back in Texas. At the last minute, I decided to come back to Ozarks. I realized that I wasn't going to find the same level of support that I received from the Jones Learning Center anywhere else."

Three years later, Bell is on the cusp of earning her bachelor's degree and is certain she made the right decision.

"I know if I had transferred after my first year like I had planned, I would not be doing as well as I am now. I wouldn't have found the one-to-one attention anywhere else. I don't just mean in the Jones Learning Center, either. They definitely have given me all the attention and support I need, but the faculty outside the JLC have been just as helpful," she explained.

Bell, who decided to study early childhood education after volunteering at her high school teaching students with dyslexia, can't say enough about her education courses.

"Ozarks' teacher education program is great," she said. "It's small and personal. All of my professors know my name. They know what grades I'm making and what I need to do better. The classes usually contain a lot of small group discussion instead of straight lectures, which is great for me. All of the students know each other so well that I'm not afraid to speak up during class to ask questions or state my point of view. It's been awesome."

Next semester, Bell will begin Ozarks' year-long teaching internship. She is excited about the prospect of spending more time in a local elementary school.

"I'm hoping to student-teach in second grade," she said. "I love that grade level, because they have developed a little sense of independence but they still need their teachers. Over the summer, I volunteered in a second grade classroom at a small, impoverished Catholic school in Dallas called Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I fell in love with the second graders there."

In addition to her positive experiences in the classroom, some of Bell's favorite moments have occurred in her JLC coordinator's office.

"Debbie Williams is my coordinator in the Jones Learning Center. A lot of the memories I made in Debbie's office will stick with me forever. I've really formed a bond with Debbie's other students. We call each other our siblings, and I met them all in my coordinator's office," Bell said.

After graduation, Bell plans to move back to Dallas and transfer her teaching license to Texas. She also plans to begin graduate school.

"I feel like Ozarks and the Jones Learning Center have prepared me very well for my future. In the beginning, my coordinator and the staff in the JLC really held my hand through everything. Now, in my senior year, it's all me. I'm not relying on my support system nearly as much, and I'm doing really well," Bell said.