Tutoring Accident Inspired Her Career
Diana Leddy, MEd ’98 discovered her passion for teaching as a young teen in Long Island, New York. “I’ve wanted to teach since I was 14 years old,” she said. “That’s when I started volunteering as a peer tutor with kids with special needs.” Through her tutoring, Diana accidentally wound up teaching someone to read. “It was the most exciting thing,” she said. “I decided right then and there that I was going to be a teacher.”
Eventually, Diana surpassed that dream. Not only has she been a classroom teacher since 1981, but in September 2009 the Vermont State Board of Education named her the 2009 Vermont Teacher of the Year. “It’s wonderful,” she said. “I was nominated by my principal, and somehow, I wound up being selected. It’s all very humbling. It’s a great honor and a great responsibility to be representing Vermont.”
Diana launched her career after graduating from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in education. Soon after, she relocated to Vermont as an elementary school teacher. About a decade ago, to further her own education, she enrolled in Antioch University New England’s Experienced Educators program. “I knew I needed time to reflect, to rejuvenate, and be with peers,” she said. “The field was moving forward rapidly, and I wasn’t. It was time I did.”
In 1998 she graduated from Antioch University New England with a master’s degree in education with a concentration on curriculum and assessment. Since then, she has been a passionate advocate for literacy and has served not only as a teacher but as a teaching consultant.
Working with other educators as well as with the Vermont Department of Education, Diana has helped to develop and implement numerous statewide curriculum and assessment programs. Those include Vermont’s Primary Benchmarks for Writing, the State’s first Primary Writing Network and Vermont Grade Expectations in Writing, among others. Beyond that, she’s assisted area teachers in designing curriculum for subjects such as writing, reading, social studies, and science. For the past five years, Diana has worked at the Newton School in South Stafford, Vermont where she teaches a multi-level classroom of students in grades three through five.
A Year of Distinction
Her selection as 2009 Vermont Teacher of the Year was made by State Board of Education representatives at a surprise school assembly. “It was a wonderful ceremony,” said Diana, who lives in Thetford Center with her husband and two college-age children. “The students were the best part of it all. When they announced my name, the entire school spontaneously jumped up and cheered. It was the best standing ovation I’ve ever received.”
In her new role, she not only retains her classroom duties, but travels frequently to schools throughout the state to speak. She’ll also serve on the interview committee for the new state Commissioner of Education. In January, she will join her counterparts from the other 49 states in Dallas; and again in April in Washington, D.C. There the group will meet with President Obama as well as with the legislature before the announcement of the National Teacher of the Year.
Diana has a second cause for celebration this year. A founding member of the Vermont Writing Collaborative, she co-authored the book, Writing for Understanding: Using Backward Design to Help Students Write Effectively, which the collaborative published in May.
“It all started with my [Antioch University New England] master’s project,” she said. “It set me on a course. My master’s action project – What Makes An Effective Writing Program? – has been my emphasis for the last ten years.”