Andrea B. Tolliver earned her Associate of Arts from Landmark College in 2000. She then went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts in art education from Manhattanville College, and her Master of Professional Studies with a concentration in special education from Manhattan College of New York in May of 2012. In the fall of 2012, Andrea began in her role as an assistant middle school teacher at the Windward School in White Plains, New York, an independent, co-ed day school focused exclusively on helping students in grades 1 – 9 with language-based learning disabilities.
At the start of our conversation, Andrea shared this reflection with us: “Many years ago, I came to Landmark College with a heavy heart. I was scared and timid. I was certain I just might fail all over again. I barely graduated from high school; my guidance counselor encouraged me to stop pursuing college. I was devastated. I wanted to give up, but I just did not have the power in me to stop trying to learn.” Today she credits her struggles in her secondary education as the catalyst of her relentless drive.
We welcomed Andrea back to campus in January for Spring 2013 Convocation, during which she greeted the incoming Landmark College students with heartfelt words of advice: “Today really is the first day of the rest of your lives. Many of you have faced a tough academic road. You have jumped through hoops, over fire, and looked the lion straight in the eyes. Some of you have wanted to give up, throw in the towel, and never look back. Today you have that chance, to never look back. I take great pride in conveying this message to you because I too have embarked on this tremendous journey of self-discovery at Landmark College.”
Some of Andrea’s fondest memories of Landmark College are of the friendships she made while attending the College. “Landmark provided the opportunity to build lasting friendships with people who really understood what it was like to be a minority in school,” Andrea reflected. She credited Landmark College as the first time that she ever felt like she fit in. She is still in contact with many of her classmates and visits them from time to time.
The reasons she enjoys coming back to the College and being active as an alumna are simple. While her studies at Landmark College were far from easy, today she truly understands the amount of courage and determination that goes into overcoming a learning difference. Because of this understanding, Andrea enjoys giving back to the community and sharing her story to give hope to current students during challenging times, as well as to celebrate their successes with them.
Although her academic challenges are unique to her personal experiences, she feels that current students can relate to both her successes and failures. “It brings me much joy to feel like I can touch the lives of others the way that my life was touched while I attended Landmark.” And with that breath of appreciation, our conversation about new beginnings came to a close.
Thank you, Andrea, for sharing your story, and for making a difference in the lives of other students at Landmark College—and now younger students as well, through your work as a teacher.