Alexandra “Grace” Perry will continue a family tradition when she graduates from ECU on May 5.
Perry, who is majoring in special education, will be the third generation in her Duplin County family to graduate with an education degree from ECU’s College of Education.
Her mother, Sarah Farrior Perry, graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s in art education, while grandmother Grace Sanderson Farrior (her namesake) graduated in December 1952 from East Carolina College. Farrior also earned a master’s degree in 1958. She taught fifth grade for 37 years, while Sarah Perry recently retired after 32 years in the classroom.
But the family teaching connection doesn’t stop there. Grace Perry’s great-grandmother was also a teacher in Duplin County in the early 1900s, but didn’t receive a degree. Her great-great grandfather was a teacher in Sampson County.
“It is an honor to be a third-generation Pirate educator and to share a profession with two people that I look up to the most in this world,” Grace Perry said. “I hope to one day be able to touch as many lives as they have through education.”
She wants to teach children with special needs because they often are not given credit for their capabilities or recognized for their hard work because they perform below grade level, she said.
“I want to be the teacher that shows them how proud I am of them and show them that they are, in fact, smart,” Grace Perry said. “Children with disabilities often struggle with having low self-esteem because they learn differently than their peers and at a different pace. I want to boost their self-esteem by showing them everything they are capable of accomplishing through hard work and determination.”
The teachers in her life made a positive impact on her, Grace Perry said.
“I would not be going into education with such a passion if my elementary school teachers and parents had not worked so hard to help me succeed and prove to me that I was and am smart no matter how differently I learn,” she said. “I can’t wait to change children’s lives in a positive way and bring out the best in them every day.”
This year, Grace Perry has been a student teacher at West Greene Elementary School in Snow Hill, where she taught 13 second- and third-graders. She will graduate magna cum laude after being named to the chancellor’s list the past two years and the dean’s list her first and second year. She is a past member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha service sorority. She is a graduate of Harrells Christian Academy.
“It is so special to me that I get to carry on this career and follow in similar footsteps as my grandmother and mom,” Grace Perry said. “It is even more special that I have been able to attend East Carolina just like my grandmother and mom to obtain my degree in teaching.”
Grace Perry said she has learned what makes a good teacher from her mother and grandmother, who both taught the majority of their careers at Wallace Elementary School.
“Teaching is a calling,” Sarah Perry said. “It’s not something you choose; it chooses you.”
Sarah Perry has returned to teaching after retirement in a pre-school class at a private school, and Farrior didn’t stop volunteering in the public schools until age 79, she said.
“They taught me that stability, organization, kindness and discipline go a long way in the classroom and it is what students need from you every day,” Grace Perry said. “They have also taught me that this is a hard job that is physically and sometimes emotionally draining but that it is all worth it when the day is done. Every child deserves to learn and they never gave up on any of their students and neither will I. That’s the most important lesson they taught me.”
This week more than 5,000 graduates will earn their degrees from East Carolina University, and each one will chart a unique course as they move into the next stage of their lives as newly minted members of Pirate Nation. For more stories of how just a few of ECU’s 2017 graduates have made the most of their time on campus please click on the link below: