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Virginia Journal of Education


Ten Minutes With…

Diana Cotter


Position:
Instructional Specialist
School system: Virginia Beach Public Schools   
Years worked in education: 13


What is a typical school day like for you?
A typical day? What’s that? There’s nothing typical about my job and on any given day my role varies. I have to be ready for whatever need arises at my designated schools. I serve as a liaison between the school and the Office of Programs for Exceptional Children. I work collaboratively with teachers and principals to best meet student needs or mediate and solve challenges. I assist teachers with planning and with the development and implementation of effective classroom management strategies and organization. Also, I observe teachers and students and provide feedback; serve as support; and develop and conduct professional development workshops. But the workday rarely ends without a committee meeting or some special project collaboration. Our division is so vast and the initiatives are many. One has to become part of the process and participate to make a difference. I don’t believe in standing on the sidelines. VBCPS is not only my place of employment; it is also the school system that my children attend. I am vested as an employee and as a parent.

Today, my day started at 8 a.m. in a department meeting at one school. After the meeting I had about 30 minutes to catch up on some cases I’m working on with some teachers at that school. I left there and went to meet with a group of seventh grade teachers at 10 to go over IEP changes. At noon, I had a review of data and records with a teacher at another school. Then while at someone’s desk (teachers are hospitable…they let me crash their personal space all the time), I helped someone else with the development of an IEP. After that, I answered the flurry of e-mails that never stops coming before returning to my office to get ready for a workshop that started at 4 and ended at 6.


What do you like about your job?
There are so many aspects to like about my job, but I think the part I like best is my constant interaction with teachers and students. I am a people person and it keeps me connected. I like to get to know and help people. At the end of the day, it’s nice to know that I’ve made a difference to another educator.  Sometimes this happens by finding the best way to help a student by sharing an idea or through a laborious collaboration. Sometimes this happens simply by being there and listening. Listening to other colleagues is a priceless gift. I highly recommend listening to each other, without the need to correct, add or judge. Just listen.

Teachers have it tough these days and it is my duty to be there when they call. They may not always see it this way, but I’m their advocate and do raise their concerns in front of the people who actually have the power to change policies. Easing their loads is a privilege, even if it’s just by making a simple suggestion or assisting them during the delivery of lessons. 


What is hard about your job?
The hardest part of my job is prioritizing and pleasing everyone. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once. My goal is always to make sure that my teachers, administrators and students understand that they come first. In order to meet that goal, I simply work around-the-clock. This takes a toll, especially with children at home.

Another thing that’s hard is that there’s never an easy answer in education. We have to try many approaches and go with the one that best meets the needs of a particular case. Because site-based management differs from school to school, I always have to check policy at a particular building. I have a lot of disclaimers whenever I give advice.


How has being an Association member been helpful to you?
Besides my work schedule, I keep an active schedule in the community. I like to stay on top of what can affect the quality of life for my family. I love the Association because it works as hard as I do to keep me informed about local and global issues. I read Association publications every month and have, on more than one occasion, shared an article, grant idea, a quote or entire issue with colleagues. Last month, there was an article as to why writing matters and it just so happened I was having a discussion on that very topic with teachers soon after.

 

 


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