By Alise Houston
My sophomore year of high school I was in an automobile accident and sustained a severe traumatic brain injury. As a result I did not return to school, but continued high school at home through BYU’s online independent study. I graduated high school early, and started college right away at a local community college.
After completing 2 semesters, and going back and forth about what I wanted to do, I took a break and moved to Kentucky with intentions on staying with a friend and attending cosmetology school there. When things did not work out there, I moved to Indiana to be near my boyfriend, and was undecided about my future career choice and college. While in Indiana I got married and had my son. We moved back to Missouri, and after working part time, I decided to attend cosmetology school. Things changed financially for us, so I had to quit school and go back to work.
In 2013 I was a single mom, and working full time with foster youth. Working with these youth sparked a desire within me to continue working with and helping children. I decided to go back to the local community college part time to obtain an associate's degree and hopefully go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree to increase my employment opportunities and income. During the semester I felt the classes I was taking did not have much to do with my career interests, and I felt I was not increasing my knowledge in important subject areas that would help me succeed in a future career. After completing one semester, and feeling like it would take eternity to obtain any type of degree since I could only attend college part time, I decided to research other options to increase my academic knowledge, skills, and hopefully my income.
In 2015 I accepted a salary position hoping it would make the income I needed as a single mother, but still hoping to spend the time with my son that I had longed for. The position was not what I had hoped for, and in the summer I was looking for a new job. During my previous research I had come across information about WGU Missouri, and had even learned of a couple of friends, who were, or had attended and graduated from WGU Missouri. They only had great things to say, and I was intrigued. I really liked the fact that it was all online since my high school classes had been online and I was very familiar with online education.
I found a new job in an elementary school where I lived, and started a position as a temporary paraprofessional in a special education classroom with students who had emotional and behavioral concerns. This really increased my interest in teaching, especially students in special education classrooms, so I contacted WGU Missouri and requested information about their elementary education and special education program.
I began my classes in November 2015, and also got married later that month. I loved the flexibility that WGU Missouri offered. I was able to plan a small wedding, and even take an extended weekend trip afterwards and not have to worry about missing any classes or getting behind in my work. There were no short-term deadlines, or dates that a paper needed to be turned in by. My only “deadline” was the last day of my semester. So, I had 6 months to complete all readings, tasks, objectives, etc.
When I first started WGU Missouri, I was a little nervous about it being all online since the classes were college level. I had struggled a little with math and science, and managing time after my car accident. Many people had told me that college may not be for me, and encouraged me to look into something “easier”. But was I was stubborn, extremely motivated, and had goals and dreams. I was referred to WGU Missouri’s Office of Student Accessibility Services, and was able to set up accommodations. Their office was very helpful, and they periodically check in with me to ensure my success. Not only was the Office of Student Accessibility Services helpful, but the course mentors have also been very supportive (Each course in WGU Missouri you are assigned a course mentor, specifically to help you with that class). I have been able to have questions answered in a very timely manner and personal one on one support from the course mentors. From a small misunderstanding of a question in a task, to needing help knowing how to best study and prepare for an objective assessment, the course mentors have been able to help with all of these things. If the course mentor that is assigned to you for your class is not available for a time that fits your needs, there are several other course mentors that have other availabilities for you to look at. Through these one on one meetings, cohorts and live webinars I have been able to succeed in all of my classes and have been able to manage my time effectively each semester.
I was very impressed with the competency-based learning, and loved that I felt all of my courses were specific to elementary and special education and I was learning the things that would help me to become a strong and successful teacher. I was also impressed with the cost. Paying per semester and not per credit hour was an amazing opportunity for someone like me who is very motivated. I had the ability to complete as many credit hours in one semester as I felt able, and not worry about having to pay additional costs to add more classes. My first semester at WGU Missouri I was able to almost quadruple the amount of credits that I had taken at the local community college I attended part time. Not only was I able to increase my credit hours that semester, but I was also able to work part time and spend more time with my family, which had been a very important goal and factor to me when I was researching academic opportunities. All of this has helped to increase my self-efficacy, and my excitement to teach in the classroom.
I am so grateful that I was able to find WGU Missouri, and beyond glad that I took the chance to go back to school full time. It has no only increased my self-efficacy, but has provided me with the opportunity to be an example of the importance of education, motivation and setting and reaching goals, to my son. I am so thankful for the personal mentor that WGU Missouri has provided to me to advise and guide me through my academic progress towards becoming a teacher. It is another reason why WGU Missouri is a great opportunity for those who want either to return to school, or for those who are just starting out on their academic journey towards a better career. That personal mentor is a great help and encouragement during the journey. I love this school and everything that it has to offer and am excited for this next year and the upcoming completion of my degree and becoming a special education teacher!