BOONE, N.C. — Lacy Martin ’18, of King, faced many challenges through her young adult life. She believes her perseverance has made her a stronger person and a better teacher today. “It’s not the struggle that makes or breaks you,” she said. “It’s what you do in the situation. Make your story — don’t let it make you.”
Martin, who received a B.S. in English, secondary education from Appalachian State University in 2018, is pursuing an M.A. in English at Gardner-Webb University while teaching ninth grade English at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem.
In 2015, she received a full scholarship to attend Appalachian thorough the Appalachian Commitment to a College Education for Student Success (ACCESS) program — an opportunity that changed her life, she said. The ACCESS program ensures students from low-income families in North Carolina can attend Appalachian debt-free.
ACCESS offers its scholars a four-year university education at Appalachian without student loans, specifically supplementing federal financial aid grants, state grants, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance, with sufficient funds to cover the cost of institutional charges (tuition, fees, room and board, health insurance) and provide students the opportunity for a work-study job to help with personal expenses.
“Lacy is an outstanding example of the excellent teachers that graduate from our department and our college,” said Dr. Donna Lillian, associate professor in the Department of English. “She has faced obstacles that would have defeated most people.”
‘Resilient through hard times’
“Lacy came to Appalachian with a goal in mind, and, despite the hardships she endured in her personal life, she kept her goal of attaining a college degree in the forefront of her mind so that she could impact other people,” said Beth Marsh ’01 ’08, director of Appalachian’s ACCESS Scholarship program. “She went after this goal with determination and creativity. I could not be more proud.”
Martin grew up with three other siblings in a household supported by a single mother. As the youngest of four, she watched her mother struggle most of her life. By the time she was a senior in high school, Martin said she was homeless and hopeless.
During this time, school was her only outlet and where she felt rewarded for her work, she said. She was inspired by her teachers and decided she wanted to become an educator to have the same positive impact on others’ lives.
Martin’s struggles continued as she learned of the loss of her father during her first year at Appalachian. During this time, she depended heavily on the friends she made in her dorm, as well as Marsh, who was her adviser, and her fellow members of the Appalachian Gospel Choir, feeling, she said, that there were unlimited resources available for support when she needed it most.
“I have learned what it means to be resilient through hard times. I am proud of the person I am today, and I hope that I can make a difference in the lives of others as so many people have done for me,” Martin said.
A career of PROMISE
In her first year of teaching at R.J. Reynolds in spring 2019, Martin was nominated by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) for a Teacher of PROMISE Award. The PROMISE Awards, which are conferred by the Forsyth Educator Partnership — an independent nonprofit that supports Forsyth County public schools, honor teachers in their first year who have demonstrated potential, responsibility, optimism, motivation, ingenuity, sensitivity and excellence (PROMISE) in teaching.
“Even as a brand-new teacher, Lacy displays the level of professionalism that administrators hope for in veteran teachers. She is reflective about her practice and deeply invested in the success of her students,” said Leslie A. Alexander, principal of R.J. Reynolds High School. “She is exactly the type of person that we hope to attract to the teaching profession to provide a bright future for our students.”
Now in its 12th year, the PROMISE Awards are a WS/FCS mentoring program designed to help new teachers during their first year in the classroom, assist in the retention of quality teachers and promote excellence in teaching and commitment to the profession. Of the 180 first-year teachers who joined the school system in the 2018–19 academic year, Martin was one of 22 award nominees.
“I teach to change the lives of those who have odds stacked against them. I share my story of struggle with them to let them know anything is possible. This nomination is not my success story, my students are,” Martin said.
Martin is completing her M.A. in English at Gardner-Webb University so that she can teach at the community college level and is considering pursuing a doctorate in English so she may eventually teach at the university level.
What do you think?
Share your feedback on this story.
About the Department of English
The Department of English at Appalachian State University is committed to outstanding work in the classroom, the support and mentorship of students, and a dynamic engagement with culture, history, language, theory and literature. The department offers master’s degrees in English and rhetoric and composition, as well as undergraduate degrees in literary studies, film studies, creative writing, professional writing and English education. Learn more at https://english.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Appalachian State University is home to 17 academic departments, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. CAS aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. More than 6,400 student majors are enrolled in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing App State’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About the Reich College of Education
Appalachian State University offers one of the largest undergraduate teacher preparation programs in North Carolina, graduating about 500 teachers a year. The Reich College of Education enrolls more than 2,000 students in its bachelor's, master's, education specialist and doctoral degree programs. With so many teacher education graduates working in the state, there is at least one RCOE graduate teaching in every county in North Carolina. Learn more at https://rcoe.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.