Spotlight: Linda Dishman (KS '18)January 16, 2019
As a first-year educator, Linda Dishman (KS ’12) wanted everything to be perfect in her classroom. She quickly realized that her students didn’t care about perfection: “They loved learning and being at school.” The fifth-grade teacher won the first Milken Educator Award of the 2018-19 season at Berryton Elementary School in Berryton, Kansas, on October 12, 2018.
Milken Family Foundation: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?
Linda Dishman: I was in complete shock. I could not believe I had won. I remember thinking that we have so many great educators at our school, it could be anyone. It is such an honor to be recognized for my hard work and dedication.
MFF: How did your students respond to your Milken Award?
Linda: My students were so excited and happy for me. They gave me so many hugs and high-fives after the assembly. They could not wait to tell their parents about the Award. My students continued to congratulate me all week with cards, notes and pictures. They were so proud of me!
MFF: What brought you to teaching?
Linda: During my first two years of college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I changed my major several times and felt lost because I could not decide on a career path. I started working at a daycare. At first, I was a little overwhelmed and did not think I had the skills to work with children. However, I quickly fell in love with my job. I made connections with each toddler and their families. It was such a rewarding experience to watch each child grow and develop. I knew I was called to work with children and was sure I wanted to be a teacher.
MFF: Why did you choose elementary school?
Linda: I love their energy and excitement. They are eager to learn and try new things. It is so rewarding to watch a student learn something new or finally “get” a concept.
MFF: Who are your role models as an educator?
Linda: I started my career knowing I wanted to be like Mr. Huerter, my eighth-grade teacher. He taught me the importance of building relationships with students. He took the time to get to know us and share information about his personal life. He ate lunch with us each day, celebrated our successes and took interest in our extracurricular activities. I knew he truly cared about me! I do not remember the strategies he taught me, but I do remember the relationship we formed and the memories we created.
My team and coworkers at Berryton Elementary inspire me to be the best teacher I can be. They work hard, lead by example and are passionate about what they do. I admire their commitment to be lifelong learners. I truly believe this award would not have been possible without my Berryton family. They continue to push me as an educator and teach me new things. I am so thankful to work at such a great place!
Laura Hurla, my teammate and dear friend, is my biggest role model. She took me under her wing during my first year of teaching and taught me so much. She helped me conquer conceptual math and learn how to be an effective team player. She continues to believe in me and pushes me to reach my full potential. I look to her for guidance and advice when I am failing. She always knows how to make me feel better and offers a solution to any problem. I know I can count on her.
MFF: Tell us about your first year of teaching.
Linda: It was an incredible experience. I wanted everything to be perfect for my students. I spent many nights and weekends planning and preparing for each day. But I quickly realized that my students did not care if everything was perfect. They loved learning and being at school. Together we created a positive classroom environment built on trust and respect. The students and I developed a special bond which truly felt like a family. I bawled on the last day of school because I did not want the year to be over. They taught me so much and will always have a special place in my heart.
MFF: You have been involved with Girls on the Run since your first year of teaching. What skills and values does that program help your students develop?
Linda: Girls on the Run empowers girls to achieve their greatest potential. They learn life skills to become confident, joyful, and compassionate young women. I am passionate about the program because it teaches girls to love themselves. The curriculum helps each girl develop strong character and build confidence. Throughout the season girls learn how to express their emotions, respond with compassion and build positive relationships. They also have the opportunity to design and lead a community service project that is important to them. The girls use the skills they develop throughout the season to make a difference in their community. This project has a positive influence on the girls, and it shows them the importance of gratitude and giving back to society.
MFF: What’s your biggest challenge in the classroom?
Linda: Not having enough time during the day to complete everything that needs to be done. There is so much to teach in a year. I feel like I have less time each year to cover all the standards. Somehow, I always manage to get everything done and make the most of every moment. I have to remind myself that it is okay to slow down and have fun with my students. Elementary school is about creating memories while learning!
MFF: How do you think you’ll use your $25,000 Award?
Linda: I plan to pay off the rest of my student loans. After that, I will complete a few projects around the house. I also want to buy a few robots for my classroom.
MFF: Students often hear “Failure leads to success” in your classroom. What does that mean to you?
Linda: It is important to me that I create a classroom environment where my students can take risks and try new things. I teach them that it is okay to fail and the importance of a growth mindset. Students see their failures as opportunities to learn from their mistakes. This is really important to me because they grow by learning from their failures. I want them to keep trying and not to be afraid to tackle new challenges.
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