Interview with Mrs. Gail Dickerson, ED.S.

Gail, What is Your Educational Background?

“I started my teaching career fresh out of college in 1986. I taught in many different situations over the course of my 33-year career.

In addition to my 30 years of teaching in a regular classroom teaching, I also worked with teens in summer school for 20+ years and an alternative school for 2 years. The past 6 years I taught in an evening public charter high school. In all of these situations, I had the opportunity to work with teens from various backgrounds. All needing a little extra help, encouragement, and love in order for them to be successful academically.

I also worked as an adjunct instructor for Truett-McConnell College and Emmanuel College teaching college algebra to both young and the not so young adults.

All my years of experience in education has prepared me to be in the position I am in today.”

What do you enjoy most about your work at SHA?

“What I enjoy most about working at SHA is the environment of love, devotion, and dedication. I feel God’s presence in a much stronger way in the work environment at SHA than I have ever experienced in any other work environment. Everyone is supportive of one another and I know, without a doubt, the entire staff at SHA loves and cares for our students.”

What are your Goals for the Academic Program?

“First and foremost, my most important goal is to glorify God by using the skills and talents He gave me to heighten the SHA experience for our students and their families.

Next is to help the academy enrich the exceptional therapeutic program at SHA by cultivating a rich program of core academics and electives geared specifically to support student growth and healing.”

What Sets SHA apart and makes it Unique?

“The small student to teacher ratio in our classes sets us apart from most schools. Teachers at SHA are able to present deeply rich lessons and hands-on learning simply because of the small class sizes.

I tell parents that our academy works in unison with our therapists. I also tell parents about the sustainable development program and how students participating in the classes benefit from working with their hands and being outside. Students are assigned projects called SAE, supervised agricultural experiences, based on their individual therapeutic needs. What the students do and learn here translate directly to the classroom.

I believe what I call the trifecta of student support is what makes SHA unique. During their stay at SHA, students experience equine, group, family, and individual therapy sessions. The residential staff works with each student to help them navigate the breakthroughs unlocked in the sessions. The academic staff operates the same as residential while delivering a thought-provokingly rich educational experience. True differentiation at its best! We meet every student where they are and work with them holistically to help them realize their true potential.”

Tell Me About A Success Story of Victory you Were able to See Unfold.

“Many of our students come to us, well, for lack of a better word, broken. The first time I see a student new to SHA smile because of something I said or did is a “small victory” for me. Witnessing first-hand the different stages of the healing process of students is absolutely phenomenal. It is comparable to watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. Like the caterpillar, each student at SHA goes through several necessary stages to finally break out of the cocoon they come wrapped in and, like the caterpillar, fly away as a beautiful butterfly.

A personal “small victory” I have had at SHA is when one of my students said, “Mrs. Dickerson, you are the best math teacher I’ve ever had.” I call that a win!

I would have to say that I am privileged to have a front-row seat witnessing the healing process of one particular student who came to SHA shortly after I started teaching here. This student was deep inside their cocoon when they entered my classroom. Today they are in the final stages of the process of becoming a butterfly. What an awesome thing to see!”

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