A future teacher feels valued

Senior Annah Kate Lassiter found her happy place in the UNC School of Education’s Sources of Strength class.

Portrait of Annah Kate Lassiter
“Talking about my mental health with my peers was scary to me. This class allowed me to speak freely and unjudged,” wrote Lassiter. (School of Education)

Editor’s note: Annah Kate Lassiter is a senior in the UNC School of Education majoring in human development and family science. After graduating this spring, she plans to enter the school’s Master of Arts in teaching program to become a licensed elementary school teacher. Lassiter took EDUC 405: Parenting and Family Life Education and EDUC 390: Sources of Strength, both taught by Dorothy Espelage, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Education. Below, she reflects on how she plans to incorporate what she learned into her future classroom.

As a second-year student stepping into the Sources of Strength class, I was excited to enroll in another class with Dorothy Espelage. Unknowingly, I had entered a classroom that would completely change my college experience and help to shape me into the young woman I am today.

My first year wasn’t an exciting and fun-filled year. Shortly after starting classes at UNC, I was homesick, challenged and unencouraged. I was beginning to think that maybe UNC was not the right place for me — which was a real problem since everyone in my family bleeds Carolina Blue blood!

Not wanting to disappoint those who had believed in me, supported me and helped me to get where I was, I did as my mom would tell me to do when facing a challenge: I “sucked it up, buttercup” and decided I was going to be successful here and find my happy place along the way. A meaningful Zoom meeting with an amazing, thought-provoking adviser led me to a change in major and finding my home in the School of Education.

I enrolled in EDUC 405: Parenting and Family Life Education, required for my major. I had truly found my happy place at UNC — the School of Education. It makes a tremendous difference in your day-to-day when you are surrounded by people who have the same aspirations and passions that you have!

Since the first day of this course, I felt respected, valued and encouraged by my fellow students, the professor and teaching assistants. I can confidently say that these course instructors were intentional with getting to know Annah Kate as a person rather than just Annah Lassiter as a student.

The Sources of Strength course helped to provide me with life lessons and mental health strategies while building core principles for my future. Mental health can sometimes be an uncomfortable conversation. Talking about my mental health with my peers was scary to me. This class allowed me to speak freely and unjudged. I could truly be the most authentic version of Annah Kate.

At the beginning of each class, we would share a “rose, bud, thorn” with our peers. This is a self-reflective activity that forces honest and intentional conversation. A “rose” is something positive in your life. A “bud” is something you are optimistic about or looking forward to. A “thorn” is something you are struggling with. Through these conversations, I grew closer with my peers. But I also learned a lot about myself and grew in ways I never imagined possible.

I plan to work with elementary students, and I believe that instilling the importance of mental health and positive perspectives from a young age is essential for our future generations. I intend to build genuine, profound and life-long relationships with my students as I know the intentional educators in my life have greatly influenced my experiences.

I will be forever grateful for my Sources of Strength experience. It has helped me to become the best version of myself.

Read more about Annah Kate Lassiter’s experience.