middle school students in classroom wearing masks

The Path to Confidence

by Elizabeth Theriault ’20

“Through my education, I didn’t just develop skills,

I didn’t just develop the ability to learn,

but I developed confidence.”

—Michelle Obama

Elizabeth Theriault ’20

A Transformation

Confidence is defined as belief in oneself, power, and ability. It leads to success not only in academics and one’s career but also in everyday life. My name is Elizabeth Theriault, and I am a junior at Landmark School. I play on the varsity volleyball team, I am a resident of Williston House, and I am an active member of a vibrant and welcoming school community. When I arrived in the summer of 2016, I was a quiet, shy, and insecure teenager who struggled for years in a public-school learning environment. Since then, I have not only developed self-advocacy skills and independence but also, most importantly, confidence in myself.  

Becoming successful academically wasn’t easy. Before, I felt like most of the work I completed was not my own. Teachers in my public school were supposed to be helping me, but I felt like I never actually did any work on my own. Within my first few weeks at Landmark, teachers taught me in ways I was never taught before. For the first time, I was able to grasp concepts I had previously struggled with. Finally being able to understand key concepts of mathematics, writing, and biology—subjects that I never understood before—made me feel intelligent, and I liked this new feeling.

Learning to advocate for myself allowed me to communicate more effectively with my teachers, coaches, and friends. I used to depend on my parents when I was struggling academically because I was insecure about the way my teachers would respond to me. Now, I am much more comfortable asking for help, not only from my teachers but outside of the classroom as well. I have learned that in order to succeed, you must speak for yourself and advocate for what you need.

From Quiet to Confident

My Landmark teachers have contributed greatly to my growth. Besides being able to explore new strengths like visual art, they have also encouraged me to participate in class discussions. I used to sit in the back of the classroom at my public school, hoping my teachers wouldn’t notice me or ask me any questions in front of my peers. I lacked the self confidence to share my thoughts and always thought I was wrong. I thought others would think I was dumb. Within my first few months here, I realized sitting in the back of the classroom wasn’t an option. I was quickly forced to become engaged in class discussions. I was particularly afraid of reading my writing in front of my classmates. I knew my writing needed a lot of work, and I struggled with reading fluency. However, my teacher gave me the encouragement and skills to be successful, including walking me step by step through the writing process and providing graphic organizers and daily reading fluency practice. After a few years of being pushed and taking personal risks, I finally developed the confidence to read my work aloud in class. Not only did I share when asked by my teacher, but I volunteered to share any writing from free writes to open responses, and even poetry.  

While Landmark has helped me improve many academic skills, the most important thing I have gained from this school is self-assurance. I have learned that if you do not have confidence in yourself, you will never know how capable you really are.


Article originally published in The Lantern, Fall 2018/Winter 2019.