Annie Morace, 22 and a senior at NSU, is just one semester away from receiving her degree in Elementary Education and can’t wait to be a fourth grade teacher next school year. She may have epilepsy but it definitely isn’t holding her back and hasn’t since she was diagnosed at 15.
“One day in school I went to the bathroom during class and the next thing I remember is being on the floor surrounded by EMS. I had no idea what was happening,” she says. “They brought me outside to the ambulance where some of my classmates were standing nearby looking shocked. I thought I fell and hit my head, I didn’t think it was anything else. But I soon learned another classmate had found me having a seizure on the floor and I’ve been living with epilepsy ever since.”
Annie’s best friend had a physical disability caused by a childhood illness and Annie says that she really put things in perspective following her diagnosis. “She never let her disability hold her back, even though it was really inconvenient. She has the most happy personality I have ever known and was probably the most liked person in the class. My epilepsy was nothing in comparison to what she was/is living with,” Annie says. “We helped each other.”
When it came time for college, Annie knew from day one she wanted to be a teacher, so deciding a major was easy but picking a school was a little more difficult. Annie is from Natchitoches but had always wanted to go to LSU, she and her dad had been cheering on the Tigers forever. She got her acceptance letter and was ready to go until she had a seizure a few months before moving in. Ultimately, she chose to stay in her home town and attend NSU, where she would be close to her family but could still live in an apartment and gain independence.
“I was very disappointed originally. It was the first time I felt like epilepsy was getting in my way,” Annie says. “I realized quickly that it was the best choice, though. We control our mood, our circumstances do not — flash forward four years and now I can’t imagine my life any other way!”
Annie has been seizure free for two years. She is finishing her last courses in school and is currently doing her student teaching. Though she has only been at it for a month she has already developed a strong bond with her students and knows she has chosen the right career path. She also believes having epilepsy makes her more sensitive to the needs of children that are different for whatever reason.
She says, “I try to be a positive role model and answer questions honestly. I have an eye flutter sometimes as a result of my seizure medications and recently children were mimicking it and asking why I do it. I explained epilepsy and that I have it. I encouraged the children to ask questions and talk more to understand. The dialogue was incredible, we talked about different stigmas and walked away understanding we are all different and that is OK!”
Annie, already teaching life lessons, can’t wait to receive her diploma and start teaching a class of her own. “Who knows,” she says, “by strengthening and supporting the next generation I may even teach a future genius that could help us find a cure for epilepsy!”