Love of learning lifts Cato College of Education alumna

Tori Brasher with her children
Thursday, February 13, 2020

This February, couples who met at UNC Charlotte and other members of the campus community are sharing what they love about each other and the University. Share your story on social media using  #iLOVEUNCC. Alums are encouraged to make a gift to support programs, scholarships or departments at LOVE.UNCC.EDU.

Tori Brasher ’13 M.Ed. loves UNC Charlotte because it gave her a chance to give back. 

Brasher, a North Carolina Principal Fellow, said the deciding factor in choosing UNC Charlotte for her master’s in educational leadership was that it offered her a graduate assistantship that allowed her to work directly with students in the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program. Brasher had earned her undergraduate degree in education as a teaching fellow. 

As a grad student, she worked closely with Cato College of Education faculty members Misty Cowan-Hathcock, James Lyons and Jim Bird, whose lessons she carries with her today as an assistant principal.

“They really impressed upon me being genuine, being yourself and standing up for what you believe is in the best interest of children,” said Brasher, a Greensboro native.

Brasher, a first-generation college student, loves education because it lifted her out of poverty. Her mother was just 14 years old when she gave birth to Brasher, and the young family struggled during most of her childhood.

“My mom and I have differences on the word homeless,” Brasher said. “She says we weren’t sleeping on the street. I said we were living with everybody on their couch. We didn’t have a place that we called home. We didn’t get stable housing until I was 16. 

“So, because of that, school was my safe place. If there was something at school, I tried my best to be at it. It was kind of like my escape, and I had some great teachers, which made me want to be a teacher.”

Her “awesome” second grade teacher fostered Brasher’s love of history. After completing a bachelor’s degree in history education from UNC Greensboro, she taught high school history in Guilford and Forsyth counties. 

Brasher thought she’d be in the classroom forever, until she learned about the Principal Fellows program. Today, she is an assistant principal at Rocky River Elementary School in Concord.

She enjoys elementary students because, as a high school teacher, she saw too many pupils who struggled and considered dropping out. She wants to reach them early, particularly those students living in poverty. 

“I always wanted to be part of the solution, and I’ve always wanted to work in high-poverty communities, because I feel like they need advocates,” Brasher said.

“I just think we’ve put a lot of money into dropout prevention coaches, not that they aren’t warranted, but we have to reach students before they’re ready to drop out. We need to put more on the front end. And so that’s what I do in my role every day in advocating for students, supporting their teachers, and in understanding how to build connections with children and families, and then also understanding traumas (some face).”

And Brasher practices what she preaches. She and her husband, Torre, adopted three siblings who were born into a family dealing with drug addiction. The Brashers are teaching 5-year-old Landon, 4-year-old Liam and 3-year-old Chloe Grace what they believe: Every child is deserving of a loving family and a safe space.    

And her arms remain open to UNC Charlotte. At the invitation of Cowan-Hathcock, she has returned to campus to speak to students in the Cato College of Education about working with kids who live in high-poverty communities. And Rocky River Elementary has hosted the college’s student-teachers for four years, Brasher said.

She’d like to one day become Dr. Brasher. And she’d like to do it at UNC Charlotte.

“I absolutely love UNC Charlotte,” Brasher said. “It was a great experience here.”