When Laurie Dillman was in college, she planned to be a lawyer. But her path took a turn after her first semester in law school.
She began taking on substitute teaching jobs with English as a Second Language classes.
It was the first time she felt she could make a difference in the lives of others.
Now, Dillman is making a big impact in the classroom.
In November, Dillman was nominated as Fuquay-Varina High School’s Teacher of the Year.
“That surprised me,” she said of the nomination.
After about three rounds of voting among the school’s staff, she earned the coveted distinction and spent nearly a month putting together a portfolio for Wake County, including her experience, thoughts on educational trends and the reason why she got into teaching.
“It really makes you think,” she said.
Recently, Dillman was announced as one of 24 finalists for Wake County’s Teacher of the Year.
Dillman is humbled by others taking notice of her work.
“That’s a special feeling,” she said. “I was honored and shocked that my efforts have been recognized.”
While her class sizes are considerably smaller than most teachers, her role is no less important. Dillman is in her 13th year as an ESL teacher. For part of that, she taught elementary level ESL for a couple years. Before that, she taught fourth grade for a year as well. Dillman holds a Master’s Degree in ESL curriculum.
But teaching ESL students wasn’t her first glimpse into the struggles faced by her students. Growing up in a military family, she moved from Georgia to Los Angeles and, feeling like an outcast, she became friends with others that sympathized with her, including many Hispanic students.
“I became a wannabe Mexican,” she said.
She became a sponge of the Spanish language and Hispanic culture.
“I love being able to help [the ESL students],” Dillman said. “I get how they’re feeling at times.”
It’s easy for students like Dillman’s to get lost in the frey, and it takes great teachers to help them stand out. She feels like she is bridging the gap educationally as well as socially by encouraging them through some daunting issues they face.
Much like finding her California friends in high school, Dillman found her home at Fuquay-Varina High School. She said FVHS is a community of teachers; everyone is very supportive.
“I’m happy to be a part of this school,” she said.
Joining Dillman as semifinalists are Monica Abel of Wendell Middle School, Lisa Amador of Yates Mill Elementary School, Amanda Applegate of Powell Magnet Elementary School, Courtney Beickert of Cedar Fork Elementary School, Christine Bethel of Banks Road Elementary School, Sonya Brown of Smith Magnet Elementary School, Elizabeth Crowell of Davis Drive Middle School, Stacy Edwards of Turner Creek Elementary School, Teresa Edwards of Forest Pines Elementary School, Amy-Lyn Foster of Lockhart Elementary School, Jennifer Gillam of Sanderson High School, Lindsay Hamrick of Martin Magnet Middle School, Dianne Jones of Wiley Magnet Elementary School, Shanta Lightfoot of Ligon Magnet Middle School, Anne Mayer of Sycamore Creek Elementary School, Luke Miles of Durant Road Middle School, Tara Rood of Kingswood Elementary School, Lynn Rustay of Holly Ridge Elementary School, Monica Sawyer of Wakefield High School, Chad Smith of Holly Grove Middle School, Rachael Stauffer of Olive Chapel Elementary School, Lesley Wade of Lacy Elementary School and Keri Woronka of Pleasant Union Elementary School.
The 12 finalists for Wake County’s Teacher of the Year will be announced on April 10 and the winner will be announced on May 9.
Contact Kelly Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-552-5675.