Lalanya Ennis

COM class sparks passion for future COM professor

Three words are emblazoned in the quote on Lalanya Ennis’ wall — choice, chance and change.
The quote was a gift from a student reflecting his change in attitude during her Psychology for Success class.
“He came in very negative,” said Lalanya. “At end of semester he came in and said, ‘I feel like I'm becoming more positive. I finally get it now.’
“I can’t even explain how exciting it is to talk about something you love and are passionate about and have students ask questions,” she added.
The first in her family to attend college, let alone earn two bachelor’s in psychology and sociology and a master’s, Lalanya began her higher education journey in a COM classroom. Taking a class for certificate required by the child care center she worked for, her professor encouraged her to continue her education and even helped her complete the COM application and turn it in.
She graduated from COM in 2001 with an associate degree and a plan to pursue psychology – a subject that began fascinating her in COM classes including Alice Watford’s. She didn’t dream of teaching until wondering how to finance her final semester of her master’s and vividly recalls her first class.
“I walked in that night and I was scared, mostly that someone would ask me how long I’d been teaching.”
She’d planned her answer in case someone asked: “Not long enough to not know all the answers, but long enough to know where to find them.”
She enjoyed it—even after working a long day as a Child Protective Services supervisor.
“I was so rejuvenated, like I’d just been to Astroworld,” she remembered.
She became a full-time COM professor in 2011 and now teaches Psychology for Success, Lifespan Psychology and Intro to Psychology.
Active inside and outside of the classroom, she co-sponsors the So-Psyched Club, which conducts psychology movie nights, service projects, and fundraisers. She has been voted twice by students as a finalist in the Teacher of the Year competition.
“I like community colleges because you don’t get typical university students, you get all races, ages, backgrounds,” she explained.  “I’ve had grandmas of 20 and high school kids. You get to talk about life experiences, and it helps students understand the class because they hear different life experiences.”
She engages each student, even in something as simple as taking attendance. At the start of each class, each student turns in a note on an index card – about any thing relating to class or outside. She responds to each one.
“It’s a private dialogue,” she explained.
“We have students who want to quit, who don’t have a support system. College was my support system. I took classes from Dr. Pam Millsap, Alice Watford, Jim Carpenter and Jan Smith (and other professors at COM). My goal is to be for my students what those were for me.”

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