Candis Castorani, 39, of Sarasota is a school psychologist for Sarasota schools and mother of two, Sophia, 7, and Mia, 14 months.
Candis Castorani knew exactly when she found her path in life.
It was during a lecture in a college class called Introduction to Psychology. The professor was addressing questions she’d long wondered about the workings of the brain. For years she’d watched a relative grapple with anxiety. Why does this happen? And how can we make things better?
Castorani was a confident young woman, quiet, self-motivated and driven – a natural leader, the go-to person friends turned to in a jam.
Psychology felt like a perfect fit with her goals – to help families, especially children in a school setting.
She could not yet know how it would serve her years later, amid her own family’s unimaginable wave of cataclysmic loss, when the inexplicable would bring her to her knees.
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Finding a calling, and a foundation
Born and raised in Sarasota, she was surrounded by a large extended family anchored by her strong Italian mother and grandparents.
Castorani remembers she’d always wanted to work in schools. When she was a child, her parents set up a chalkboard for her on the back porch, where she taught to imaginary students using expired textbooks.
By the time she reached college at Florida State University, many assumed she would major in music – she had been the drum major at Sarasota’s Riverview High School in the 1990s. At FSU, she became the saxophone section leader in the Marching Chiefs.
But her career calling lay elsewhere. While initially drawn to elementary education, she also was fascinated about the brain and how its functions relate to human behavior, cognition and emotion.
She found a way to bridge her passions – graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in child development.
Back home, she got her first job at The Thinking Center of Sarasota. There she helped children and teens with academic interventions, particularly through remedial reading.
She also was back in the orbit of family and old friends – with Castorani and her sister pulled in to help her mother and grandparents host annual Christmas festivities with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
In 2008 she started what would become a long career with the Sarasota School district, beginning as a reading specialist tutor. That same year she obtained an Education Specialist degree in school psychology.
Meanwhile, around 2010, someone special entered her life, a man she would later marry. William Landers complemented her in every way. While Castorani was short and expressive, William was 6-foot-4 and stoic, quiet …….