Dianne Little, your candidate NC House 94I am a professional educator with over 45 years of experience as a classroom teacher, high school administrator, and college instructor and administrator. However, although I know that degrees and career history are important, that information does not tell you who I am. And, I just think that it is very important for you to know about me first as a person. Having that information will help you decide if you can support me in my efforts to become your new Representative in the N.C. House.

I was born into a wonderful family with loving parents and two older brothers who, though disappointed in my arrival, learned to tolerate their little sister. Before I was born, however, tragedy had already struck: My dad had been in a terrible automobile accident at the hands of a drunk driver and suffered from debilitating headaches the rest of his life; my mother had become an invalid in her early 20’s due to severe rheumatoid arthritis. By the time I came along roughly ten years later, she could not walk without assistance and soon was confined to a wheelchair. Of course, my mother did not have health insurance; so, the bills became enormous. During that time, my dad became addicted to mother’s pain medication. Eventually, my dad could not support our family. We lost everything we had except our car and some clothes. My brothers were sent to live with two of mother’s sisters, and my parents and I fled to Florida to escape creditors.

In Florida, we had to live out of our car for a period of time. That did not bother me; as long as I was with my mother and daddy, I could live anywhere. However, we had very little money, and I often went with my dad when he walked door-to-door to ask for a job or a hand-out. Some people kindly helped us; others rudely told my dad to take me and get off their property. I do not hold grudges against those who were unkind in their refusal to help us, but to this day I cannot refuse to help someone in need because I have been there. I know what it feels like to be cast aside so rudely and sent away hungry and embarrassed.

Eventually, we did get a room in a boarding house. We could not afford meals during the week, but my dad always cooked a good meal on Sunday. He painted houses and did yard work during the day, and I took care of my mother.  Still, my dad still could not make enough money to support his family and his increasing addiction. One night, he did not come home; instead, two men in suits came and talked to my mother for a long time, making me sit outside. When they left, I was finally allowed in the room and ran to my mother. Through her tears, she gently told me that my daddy was not coming home at all. He had been arrested by the FBI on drug charges. Then, she said that an aunt and uncle were coming to get us the next day, that I was not to worry, and that everything was going to be okay. In spite of everything that she was going through, my mother remained an incredibly strong woman and focused on my well-being, not her own. She continued to do that for the rest of her life.

The next night as we were traveling to North Carolina, I awoke and could not find my mother! She was no longer in the car holding me on her lap! I did not know what to think – but I was too scared to ask my aunt and uncle anything.  I really did not know them; and, in my five-year-old mind, I was afraid that I had done something wrong. The next day, I found out that my mother had been taken to her father’s house until she could be placed in a nursing home. I would get to see her every Sunday. I was absolutely beyond heartbroken, and I was never the same little girl after that experience.  But I had no choice except to accept this new reality.

In spite of the fact that I had “lost” my real family, I soon found that I was surrounded by many families – aunts, uncles, and cousins – who showered me with love. Still, I was bothered by the thought that somehow I had done something to bring this horrible experience on my family. I felt very sad and unworthy. Then, I enrolled in first grade and met Ms. Helen Misenheimer. I was assigned to “Miss Helen,” as we called her affectionately, by the principal because he knew I needed the best and most compassionate teacher on his staff. Miss Helen proved to be a gift from God. She knew my history and just took me into her life as if I were hers, hugging me every day and telling me what a wonderful little girl I was and how much I meant to her. This marvelous teacher and incredible person saved my life during that crucial time. I loved Miss Helen dearly – and I still do.

I could share so much about so many of my teachers from first grade though my doctoral studies  who have influenced me and molded me into who I am as a person and as an educator. It is largely because of those remarkable people that I decided to enter the profession that became my lifelong career. I saw how my teachers changed lives for the better, and that is exactly what I wanted to do! Unfortunately, my aunt and uncle had no money to send me to college. My high school guidance counselor came to my rescue and arranged an interview with the Financial Aid Office at Appalachian State University. Soon, I had all four years paid for through loans, scholarships, and grants! Later, I was able to get a loan for my Master’s degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. It took 10 years to pay that money back, but it was one of the best investments I have ever made. Eventually, as I worked full time, I was able to pay for my Educational Specialist degree in Educational Administration and my Doctor of Education degree on my own.

I had the privilege of teaching English at Alexander Central High School for 23 years and of serving as Assistant Principal and Principal of Newton-Conover High School for 6 years. Now, I work part time overseeing leadership programs I have developed for students and adults at Catawba Valley Community College. As you can see, I have devoted my life to education and educators in our state, trying to give back some of the blessings I have received from others.

Why do I share all of this with you? I share it because I want you to understand my passion for education in our state. I am a proud product of the North Carolina public schools, and I am so grateful for the quality of education that I received there because that education saved my life in so many ways. I am devastated and outraged by what has been done to diminish its importance in our society and by what has not been done to strengthen and sustain public education as the foundation of our democracy. Now, I am determined to be a voice for all our students, teachers, and parents as well as an advocate for public education so that our public schools can not only survive but also flourish! I very much hope that you can support my efforts to restore public education to its rightful role in our society.