Ashley Wheeler: A Teacher In the Making At South Texas College

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Ashley Wheeler is a go-getter. She has big dreams and the drive she needs to reach them. She also has a husband, three young children, and a full-time job. For years, balancing family, work, and career advancement seemed like a pipe dream. Then Ashley heard about South Texas College. STC turned out to be the solution she was looking for: a quality education that worked for her schedule and her budget. Thanks to STC, Ashley is well on her way to a dream career in education – with her family and her wallet intact.

Ashley has wanted to work in a school for as long as she can remember. Her parents had deep faith in the power of education, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree – Ashley reminds her own kids every day about the opportunities that come with a college degree. A Minnesota native, Ashley earned her first associate’s degree in her home state, planning to return for her bachelor’s after working for a while. As often happens, life trumps our best laid plans. With a husband and three children at home, Ashley focused her considerable talents on working and raising a family.

After a few years, Ashley’s husband got a job in banking in the Rio Grande Valley. They packed up the family and headed down to the border. Ashley got a job at Teaching and Mentoring Communities, a program that provides Head Start services to the children of agricultural families and migrant workers. There, she mentors 14 teachers and ensures that each and every child leaves the program school-ready. Ashley loved her work (and still does), but something began to nag at her. She started to feel that when it came to prioritizing education, she was talking the talk more than walking the walk. Every college-related chat she had with her kids made her reflect on her own education. Soon, Ashley made the decision to go back to school and earn the degrees she needed to realize her dream career.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t as easy as Ashley hoped it might be. Many local colleges and universities were too expensive, or held classes at inconvenient times, or made her feel like she was just another face in the crowd. Ashley related these frustrations at a family gathering one night, which is how she learned about South Texas College. Her husband’s cousins had all attended and gave the college rave reviews. Their enthusiasm intrigued Ashley. Her preliminary research was promising, and after a visit to the campus, she was convinced that STC was the place for her.

During her first year at STC, Ashley earned not one but two associate’s degrees, one in elementary education (for her career) and one in sociology (because she loves learning about it). How did she finish what normally takes four years in just four semesters? With STC’s unique approach to secondary education. Like many students at STC, Ashley was able to apply previously-completed courses to her degree plan, saving her both time and money.  STC also offers mini-semesters, summer courses, and distance learning options so busy students like Ashley can complete their degrees on their own time. Lastly, STC offers a competency-based option for bachelor-level courses. Students have the option to take a “pre-test” for their course. A score of 80% or higher moves them straight to the post-test, which, if passed at the same rate, grants full course credit. This lets students invest time and money in the classes they truly need, rather the ones in which they are already competent.

Ashley, now boasting three associate’s degrees, went to meet with her advisor to discuss her next steps. Knowing Ashley’s ultimate goal of a career in education, the advisor recommended STC’s Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Organizational Leadership. This kind of exchange is typical of Ashley’s STC experience. She feels valued and known by her professors. Once, Ashley had to miss a sociology class due to a work obligation, and her professor contacted her personally to make sure everything was alright. STC’s flexible schedule and high-quality staff seem even more amazing to Ashley when she considers the pricetag. Her bachelor’s degree, for example, is $750 per semester. By contrast, the national average semester for in-state residents at a public college costs over $4,500. With that kind of affordability, enrolling in more classes was a no-brainer for Ashley.

Today, Ashley is on track to earn her bachelor’s degree this October. Even more exciting, she has been transitioned to teach in the classroom next school year. She accomplished all of this in under two years, on her own schedule, and at an extremely reasonable price point thanks to STC. At South Texas College, Ashley Wheeler went from teacher in the making to teacher in the classroom, fulfilling a lifelong dream along the way.