Teacher and motivator
Zeta Omega, Western Carolina University, 1998
Teaching and Living the Lessons of Academic Achievement
Strength, perseverance, confidence. These are the lessons Theresa Bryant teaches at West Forsyth High School in Clemmons, North Carolina. West Forsyth’s website is emblazoned with the motto “Students reaching their optimum potential,” and inspirational teachers like Theresa make this school one of the best in the state.
In the classroom, Theresa sets high standards, but she’s also approachable and supportive. “I tell my female students in particular how important it is to be strong and persevere in school. So many students lack confidence. A few weeks ago one of my students told me I was the first teacher in her life to tell her she could achieve in school. I am glad to be that teacher.”
Theresa believes it’s more important for students to gain a true understanding of a concept or idea than to get A’s. She teaches her students to put in the work of understanding Dante’s Inferno or discovering their “writing selves.”
It’s a lesson she knows well. In order to be accepted into Western Carolina University, Theresa had to attend summer school and finish with at least a 3.0 grade point average.
“I really had a tough time academically in school, and it’s a story I tell my students when they’re struggling,” says Theresa. “The academic pressures students face today have increased. It’s so much harder to get into college, and I think it’s tough for students to go to someone when they’re in trouble. But I want to be the teacher who lets them know it’s okay to ask for help.”
Making a greater impact
Now working on her master of library science at Appalachian State University, Theresa is excelling in her studies and looking forward to having a greater impact on the lives of students. “As a teacher, I can only affect the lives of 140 students a year. As a school librarian, I’ll be able to reach out and help all of the kids in a school.”
For Theresa, there were two things that happened in her life that turned around her struggle with academics. The first was ending that dreaded summer in school with a 4.0 grade point average. The second was finding the support of her biological sister—and her other fraternity sisters at Alpha Chi Omega at Western Carolina University.
“My sister and I are three years apart, and growing up, we weren’t very close. She was the president of Alpha Chi Omega at Western Carolina University, and it was seeing her in that role that brought out in me a newfound love and respect.
“I wasn’t sure which sorority I would choose, but when I went into preference day, the way the sisters opened up and let their hearts out there, it made me want to put my heart out there too. The extra bonus was the fact that my sister was the president.”
Through Alpha Chi Omega, Theresa gained confidence, and, anxious about her past academic performance in high school, she turned to her sisters for academic support when classes got rough.
“Not only did I find the support I needed from my sorority sisters, but also it helped shape me as person. I learned the value of humbly working hard and of being a positive influence on others.”
Support for life
Now 30 years old, Theresa said the decision to go back to school for a graduate degree wasn’t easy. “I had a lot of fears. I wondered, ‘Is this the right move for me?’ I wasn’t sure if I wanted to put my husband and two children through this. I wasn’t sure if I could balance family, work and school. I was worried I would be the oldest student in my classes.
“But I also had goals, and I decided to apply for a scholarship through Alpha Chi Omega. When I found out I got a Love and Loyalty Grant, I cried. That feeling of support and confidence in me as an individual that I felt in college happened all over again. It was then that I realized that Alpha Chi Omega and my sisters are here for me for life.”