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Petal High School Student Discovers Life’s Calling in Unexpected Way

November 17, 2021

PETAL, Miss. – When Mallory Foster, a junior at Petal High School, needed to fill some time in her schedule last year while taking Driver’s Ed, she decided to take what she thought was the easy route and asked to be a teacher assistant (TA) for Ms. Jaci Anderson’s community-based class.

Mallory was sure this would be a great opportunity to use the time to study or catch up on homework. What she didn’t know at that moment was how this class would change her life.

Mallory’s TA position has turned into so much more than a way to catch up on schoolwork. It has become her life’s calling. Ms. Anderson believes her newly developed passion stems from being exposed to something outside of her comfort zone. She says it’s easy for people to take for granted their ability to do things independently and to understand basic concepts. Being in her room and working with her students opened Mallory’s eyes to a whole new world she never knew existed.

“After a month or so of her being in my room and watching her with my students, I told her you don’t know it yet, but I’m going to make a Sped teacher out of you,” said Anderson. “She didn’t see it at the time, but I did,” Anderson said.

Mallory says the turning point for her was when she realized that she and the students were more alike than different and that they shared the same ability to find joy in the smallest things.

“These students made me realize that it is possible to find happiness in the small things, and I am grateful to them for that,” said Foster.

That realization helped guide her decision to become a future educator so that she may continue to share her joy and help future students reach their full potential. Being an educator had never crossed her mind before serving in Ms. Anderson’s class, but she now speaks confidently and with excitement about her chosen career path.

Mallory has a heart for every individual in the class and can describe each student in detail, along with their required needs. She speaks with emotion and passion as she explains how she handles situations with the students and how she works differently with each one to help them reach their potential.

Ms. Anderson says Mallory is always looking for things that relate to special education and helps in every way that she can, whether it’s working one-on-one with them during their center or helping them with their lunch. She gets up extra early to arrive at school and works ahead in her zero-period class to complete her assignments just to be able to spend a few moments at the beginning of the day with them. She attends their birthday parties, accompanies them on their days off to the zoo, and goes above and beyond to make sure they feel important and included. Mallory fully believes that the students are ‘her’ students and that she is teaching them, but it is they who have taught her so much more.

“I have seen her grow so much as an individual this last year and become an even better young lady than she already was,” said Anderson. “I have big plans to help her grow as a future educator over the next year and a half, and I am unbelievably proud of her and honored to be her mentor,” Anderson said.

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