I call her “Sasita.” Some call her “Sase”, some call her “Sas” and some call her “Lori.”
Whatever name she goes by, this wonderful woman is known to thousands of students as one simply amazing human being, and one incredibly inspiring teacher.
When she was my 11th grade math teacher back in 1998, she was simply known as “Ms. Sase,” and she was beyond incredible. And she still is.
She is one of the coolest, sweetest and most inspirational people I’ve ever met. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you – you don’t meet people like Sase every day. Her energy is pure, gentle, welcoming and positive. She has a heart of gold.
And she’s really good at math. 🙂
Back when she was my teacher at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, California, her classroom was adorned with photos of her past and present students, along with motivational quotes and song lyrics, including one from Dave Matthews Band that I vividly remember to this day, 18 years later:
She was my college prep math teacher, yet her classroom was adorned with inspirational quotes and lyrics that students like me could read and ponder during class.
She taught math, yet she found time and simple ways to teach her students about life along the way.
Sase was anything but an ordinary high school teacher. Seemingly little things like sharing a song lyric on her wall was of many things she did to inspire her students on a daily basis.
Whenever I walked into her classroom, I always felt the love. You know what I mean?
The four walls of Sase’s class were a safehaven for every single high schooler who walked through her door. Her classroom felt like a happy, welcoming place where I could do math, learn, mess up, laugh and grow into my skin.
And trust me, I wasn’t the only one who felt this way about “Sasita.”
14 to 18 year olds who were feeling confused, insecure, scared or worried about anything – whether it be related to math or related to life – could always come to Sase.
Her love of inspirational quotations had a profound effect on me. So much so that when I invited her to my high school graduation party, she not only took the time to come, she also left me with this gift, which I still have:
That encouraging message she wrote to me above? It’s typical Sase style, all the way. She’s always looking for ways to uplift people.
I remember sitting in my college dorm a few months after she gave me this book.
I found myself reading it quite often throughout my freshman year. I used some of these quotes as introductions to papers I wrote, and I read the quotes in this book when I hit a rough patch in my personal life, too.
Being 3,000 miles away from home, I had to learn many hard life lessons that first year away. As I adjusted to college academics, being on my own for the first time, playing softball, experiencing my first loss of a dear friend in a car accident – Sase spoke to me through this amazing book of quotations, through each and every printed letter.
During those formative years, years where I was trying to find my way through life’s unpredictable twists and turns, this book became one of the many powerful gifts Sase gave me that I deeply treasure.
Deliciously Welcoming Donut Review Sessions
So back to the math.
I struggled with it. I’m not gonna lie to you. Math has never been my strong suit! My brain likes to write and easily resists math. And back in the day, as a gawky high schooler, I was super insecure about it.
But not in Sase’s college prep math class.
She made me feel like a rockstar, regardless of whether I solved the equation correctly. She pushed me in the best way possible. She empowered me and inspired me to study hard and work to better my math skills.
And it worked.
I did well in that class because of her amazing ability to teach difficult concepts. She would dress up in costumes (I distinctly remember her dressing up as a witch to help us remember a formula), she would play music – she would do whatever it took to help her students succeed.
When I struggled, her love of math, her love of learning and her dedication to positivity easily drowned out my self-doubt.
Ya know, that negative voice most 17-year olds have. The one that told me I was only good at English – not at math.
Sase wanted us to do well. Not to make herself look like a fabulous teacher – she already was that and everyone knew it. She really wanted to empower us to not only improve our math skills, but to also believe in ourselves, the way she did.
So before big tests, she would host optional review sessions in her classroom after school. She took the time to show up and dive into the material so we could brush up the night before the test. With donuts!
Funny how I remember the donuts so clearly. Maybe I was hungry, or maybe it was just another little gesture Sase made to show her students that little extra bit of kindness that makes her who she is.
Though it has been 18 years since she was my high school math teacher, I am so blessed to be in touch with Sasita to this day.
I’ve watched her inspire hundreds of thousands of students along the way since my time at Woodbridge High School, whether she was teaching them math, coaching them on the soccer team or just smiling at them in the hallways.
You can feel the love emanate from her Facebook page, where hundreds and hundreds of students post messages to her about how much they love her. Her inspiration is powerful and she is so loved by many.
Finding the “Melody in Malady”
Sasita recently started a blog called The Melody in Malady. Its tagline, “Life Lessons – learning to sing amidst life’s challenges” is what she is all about.
As someone who is fighting polycystic kidney disease, polycystic liver disease, undifferentiated connective tissue disease and other related health issues, Sase has been through the ringer physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
But she presses on valiantly, day after day.
It’s an absolutely beautiful blog that is uplifting, raw, honest, authentic, inspiring and more. Do your soul a favor and check it out.
As she mentions in her blog,
“Sometimes uninvited hardship can cause us to traverse a different path in life, often leaving battle wounds and shattered dreams in its wake. I’m writing from the perspective of chronic illness, but this blog is for anyone who is trying to find hope and value amidst hardship. It’s for all who are unwilling to allow obstacles to ravage their self worth.”
Despite the physical pain she endures and the countless surgeries she has been through over the years, she refuses to give up and declares,
“There IS a most beautiful melody, and it is sung very uniquely within malady.”
She keeps it real on her blog, documenting the happy times, the tough times, the inspired times and more. Though she is not teaching in a formal classroom as she fights this fight, she continues to teach everyone who crosses her path how to live a compassionate, inspired life.
And being the humble woman that she is, Sasita may not truly understand the depth of her impact.
But that’s Sase. She’s always uplifting others, while she herself embodies pure, non-judgemental love more than anyone I’ve ever met.
Love you so much, Sasita. Thank you for teaching me about math – and thank you for teaching me about LIFE. You’re a beautiful soul that I am blessed to know.
And even though I can’t carry a tune, as we’re all “learning to sing amidst life’s challenges,” I will always stand behind you as your backup singer.
Just look for the girl in the back belting out 90s pop songs, while doing the Carlton. 🙂