Rewrite the Stars

A Charles Butt Scholar redefines her legacy through teaching


By Anne Bannister

Photography by Anne Bannister


I realized I wanted people to think back on my life and be like, ‘She changed everything for me. She made a difference.’

Star brown

On a sunny day in November, Star Brown strolls through the Sam Houston State University campus. She points out landmarks and buildings to her husband William, and kids Amy (14), Daniel (13), Katherine (12), and Natalie (12). The small group walks arm in arm, sometimes tackling one another in a bear hug or stopping to pose dramatically in front of one of the campus’s signature red brick outcroppings. It’s Star’s first time showing off the university grounds to her family and she does so with pride.  

“I hope that my kids see the work that I put in and understand that it’s never too late,” Star says. “You can always be a better version of yourself. Nothing is impossible if you’re willing to put in the work.”

Star is a junior at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, and a recipient of the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers.

However, Star’s not your average college student. She’s 37 years old and a mother to a blended family of nine.

A recent personal loss caused her to reevaluate the legacy she wants to leave. “I realized I wanted people to think back on my life and be like, ‘She changed everything for me. She made a difference.’”

William helped her see that her strengths, passion, and goals all aligned under a new career – teaching.

As a future high school history teacher, Star will combine her love of working with children – particularly supporting teenagers – with her desire to make a lasting impact on her community. 

Produced and edited by Anne Bannister; cinematography by Anne Bannister, Brian Diggs & Joel Goudeau; assisted by Christina Dunigan

Turning setbacks into strengths

Star’s journey hasn’t been easy.

Raised by a single mother, she didn’t meet her father until she was 17. She describes her high school self as a “loner kid that sat in the back of every class and nobody paid attention to.” She struggled with depression and was bullied.

The barriers she faced to her own education now serve as lessons she plans to bring to the classroom to support students who are struggling. She knows the signs to look for when a student is being bullied, struggling with a mental illness, or going through a rough patch at home. 

“I offer to kids somebody that understands, somebody that knows where they’ve been and is willing to put in the energy and effort to show them that they’re worth it. Somebody who cares to understand, ‘Is this related to school, is this related to home, and how can I help you? What do we need to do to get you to where you need to be?’”

The children that I teach are going to lead the world. They’re going to change the world. If I had any hand in giving them that confidence and the strength and the skills that they need to do that, I’m good with where my station is in life.

Star brown

New beginnings

Star enrolled at Sam Houston State University in 2019 with the mission of completing a Bachelor’s degree in education and pursuing a career as a Texas history teacher. 

In 2021, she was awarded the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers. This scholarship program is designed to select talented and diverse aspiring teachers who demonstrate leadership potential and ensure they are supported financially and professionally throughout their journey to becoming a teacher. 

While Star and William were prepared to do whatever it took to allow Star to focus on her studies, they said it was a relief to have the supports that come with the scholarship.

Now in her third year at Sam Houston State University, Star says the experience has been “phenomenal.” Her favorite lessons have been on cognitive development and differentiated learning. Her studies have enriched and reinforced many of the practices she uses in her own home and looks forward to implementing them in her field-based study next year. 

Her kids are proud of her for returning to school and developing new skill sets. Daniel says she will make a great teacher, “She always drops everything to help us with history projects, other schoolwork, or support us with things we’re interested in.”

“She has that knowledge,” Natalie chimes in. “She has a bunch of kids of multiple ages so she knows from young to older what they go through. She knows what they need.”

Star feels a sense of arrival at having found her purpose. “My job is to nurture. It’s what I’m meant to do.” 

In particular, she’s excited to support students who share elements of her story: those from low-income households or single-parent homes; those who have struggled with their mental health or have been bullied.  

To others who might be considering changing fields and pursuing a career in education, Star says, “Do it.”

“If you have a passion for it, go for it. Life is too short to do something you don’t love doing.”

Star is building the foundation for her legacy.

“I love helping kids grow. The children that I teach are going to lead the world. They’re going to change the world. If I had any hand in giving them that confidence and the strength and the skills that they need to do that, I’m good with where my station is in life. My job is to nurture. It’s what I’m meant to do.”