It's been quite a year for Alyssa Starrett.
Not long before completing the online Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH) program from the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), Starrett landed a teaching job at Waxahachie High School. She crossed the BSPH finish line in August 2021 — with honors.
"I mentored several students who were in the health practicum where I worked as an emergency room technician," she said. "It was cool that they had the opportunity to do that, and I loved teaching them.
"That's when I realized I wanted to go back to school to teach. I needed a bachelor's degree, so I started researching degrees. The BSPH program at UTA was the most accommodating."
While enrolled and interning with Dr. Becky Garner, Starrett developed a grant application for a free, open online educational resource. Once the grant is approved, the resource will replace a course textbook.
The flexibility of the online format was important for Starrett, who worked as a school nurse during her time in the program. She and her husband, Johnathon, have a 6-year-old daughter.
"It worked out well," she said. "There's no way I would have been able to complete the program in person because I have a full-time job and a family."
The Big Picture
Starrett is a graduate of Palmer High School. After earning basic Emergency Medical Technician certification at Navarro College in 2012, she worked in ERs at Methodist Health System and Baylor Scott & White Health in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
"I was always interested in healthcare," she said. "Growing up, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I always knew it would be in that field.
"I got started with EMS by seeing a wreck on the side of the road and wanting to help. I didn't like the ambulance ride-outs because there was a lot of downtime, but I got hooked on the emergency room, loved it and went from there."
Starrett transitioned into school nursing at Life Schools of Dallas four years ago. Now, she's launching her teaching career in familiar territory.
"When I worked in the nurse's office at a middle school, the high school had the same program doing clinical hours," she said. "I talked to the kids and asked them about the program, what they love about it and what they wish was different. I took their answers and applied them to what I do now. I love it."
Starrett chose UTA because she knew its reputation from word of mouth. She enrolled in the Bachelor of Science in Public Health program in July 2018. Completing the coursework gave Starrett a broader view of public health, preparing her to teach CTE [Career and Technical Education] Health Science.
Starrett had lots of encouragement from her family in a year studded with major accomplishments.
"They were excited and backed me 100%," she said. "They were asking me about starting school. They are so used to me bringing home stories from the hospital; now they want some stories about teaching. I make my husband and daughter play the games I create for class at home."
Plus, Starrett said she would apply the information from the online Bachelor of Science in Public Health to her classroom. Though she earned a bachelor's mainly to improve her career prospects, she values the BSPH program for broadening her view.
"It's given me a different look at the community and a different perspective from working in the ER," she said. "I will be able to take those things and the projects we did and get the kids to do some of them. I am teaching what I love."
Her involvement in writing a grant proposal made the experience of returning to college more enjoyable for Starrett. Even as an online student, she believes participation outside of schoolwork is a worthwhile endeavor.
"Don't be afraid to put yourself out there," she said. "You never know what could come of it, like writing a grant. It was cool to be a part of that. It was my first time. It was a lot of work, but I loved it because I got to pick the content. I pushed for how schools affect the health of the students.
"People need to know about that subject. I am excited because that's not content I've ever seen in a textbook. It's important. Earning a degree online at UTA was a great experience."
Learn more about UTA's online Bachelor of Science in Public Health program.
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