Welcome to the ACE Alumni Spotlight, where we highlight alumni members and share what they are up to.
Kelly Wagner is a dedicated school nurse and health and wellness coordinator for the staff in her school district. In February, her passion and commitment to improving the health and well-being of her community were honored by Ohio Association of School Nurses. She was named the 2023 Ohio School Nurse of the Year. We caught up with this distinguished M.Ed. in Health and Wellness Education graduate to learn more about her career journey.
ACE: What’s your current job? Tell us a little about what you do.
Kelly Wagner (KW): I am a full-time licensed school nurse at Delaware City Schools, a school district in central Ohio. I’m currently working in a middle school with 1,230 students. I am also the district’s health and wellness coordinator for staff, designing and implementing health challenges, programs and incentives for over 700 employees. My master’s program was a perfect fit for giving me more credentials and education to take back to this role.
ACE: When and how did you know you wanted to have this career?
KW: I have been a nurse since 1994 when I graduated from Ohio State University with my BSN. I was never a typical hospital nurse and it took me a while to find my niche in the nursing world. I began working in schools in 2007 and finally found my passion. I then returned to OSU to obtain my school nurse license and further my education in this specialty practice.
ACE: You won an award recently. Tell us about it!
KW: Yes. On February 4, I was nominated and named by my peers and colleagues on the board of directors of the Ohio Association of School Nurses as the 2023 Ohio School Nurse of the Year.
ACE: Why are you passionate about health education?
KW: As a nurse, I see the detrimental effects of unhealthy lifestyles. If I can teach and mentor others, especially at a young age, to make healthy lifestyle choices, then I know I am making a long-term difference.
ACE: How did you hear about ACE?
KW: A colleague of mine was going through an ACE master’s program and wanted to interview me for a project/paper she was working on. I began to question her about what program she was in, because I was very intrigued and it was right in line with my passion for health and wellness. The more I learned about ACE, the more I became interested. I was signed up and enrolled in the very same program within a few weeks!
ACE: Which professor had a strong, positive affect on your ACE education?
KW: I enjoyed each of my course professors tremendously, and the insight and perspective they would share with the class. I especially recall gaining great knowledge from Katia Chamberlain and Luster Fowler. The feedback they gave on discussion posts and papers was very helpful.
ACE: What tips would you share with new students or those interested in returning to school as an adult learner?
KW: DO IT! As a non-traditional student in my 40s, it was a challenge. Thankfully my daughter was in college at that time and helped me learn the ins and outs of working in Canvas and using Microsoft Word. Once I overcame that technology hurdle (through many tears the first week of classes!), I settled into a routine of balancing family, work and classwork. It definitely takes support from your “people/tribe,” whether that is your spouse, children, roommates or colleagues, and a discipline of carving out dedicated time for the assignments and papers. The coursework was challenging but manageable, and I am so glad I took the leap of faith and jumped in. I especially loved the five-week courses. My mantra throughout the program was, “I can do anything for five weeks!”
ACE: Aside from your degree, what did you gain from your experience at ACE?
KW: A much greater understanding of online learning, as well as a new appreciation for higher education and all that it involves. I also gained a great respect for anyone working to invest in themselves through higher education. It was very enjoyable to collaborate with others via discussion posts, and share our personal and professional experiences, as many of us had several classes together as we journeyed through the program.
ACE: Personally or professionally, what are you loving right now?
KW: Life in general. Personally, my husband of almost 30 years and I have raised three amazing children who are each successfully using their education and pursuing their individual passions. Professionally, I have worked hard to establish myself as an expert in school nursing and the health and wellness field, and I share that passion at the state level by serving on the board of the Ohio Association of School Nurses. I am also the nurse coordinator for my district, leading a team of nine nurses and health professionals to oversee the care of over 5,600 children. I am proud to use my education to invest in the health and well-being of others on a daily basis.
ACE: Is there anything else you would like to share?
KW: I am very grateful for the opportunity I had at ACE to further my education. I remember the first day I called the college to get information. The woman who I spoke to was so incredibly kind and encouraging, and I knew right away that this was the institution I wanted to pursue my education with. It was a great experience, and I am so proud to be a distinguished graduate with an ACE Master of Education in Health and Wellness Education degree.
Being an American College of Education alumni has its perks. When you return as an alumni for another program, you can save 5% off your tuition with the Alumni Continuing Education Grant.