At the end of the last school year, Courtney Dillon received a very special note from a parent of one of her students that inspires her to be a better teacher every day.
"Every student should have a Ms. Dillon in their lives," it read.
Dillon, a special education math teacher at Smith Middle School in Ramsey, NJ, recently earned her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from The University of Scranton with a 4.0 GPA while teaching full-time.
“I strive to provide my students with the education they deserve,” Dillon said. “I want them to be the best and in order to be that, they must learn from the best. Without me being successful in my own education, I cannot help them to be successful in theirs.”
Her passion for education comes from seeing her students grow, both personally and academically.
“Making an impact on their lives is what gets me out of bed every morning,” Dillon said. "My students are usually struggling learners, and when I see their faces light up when finally understanding and enjoying math it solidifies the fact that I am in the right field."
Dillon's drive to succeed stems from her upbringing. She feels her work ethic was instilled in her by her parents, who she says are "extremely hard-working people."
“I want them to be proud of the work I accomplish and that inspires me to be successful,” Dillon said.
Dillon earned her bachelor's degree in elementary and special education from Scranton, which she used to qualify for her current job in Ramsey. It was there that she found the inspiration to progress on to a Master’s degree through her mentor, a director of curriculum at the middle school.
“I tell the director of curriculum of my district all the time that I’m coming for his job,” Dillon said. "I want to be a successful developer of curriculum as well as a better all-around teacher in the meantime. This degree has given me the education and knowledge that I need to succeed at curriculum writing as well as the degree necessary to apply for a job that will allow me to climb the leadership ladder.”
While working on her degree, Dillon exercised time management skills to help her succeed by making sure she devoted enough time to her job as well as to her coursework.
“It is important to seek the help of others when needed,” Dillon said. “Use the program to pick the brains of the experts in your district as well as the amazing faculty that Scranton has. Between all of those professionals, you can build a wealth of knowledge that will improve you as an educator.”
Given her previous experience with Scranton, Dillon knew exactly what to expect from a school that she believes “understands that teachers have a commitment to their jobs first and foremost.”
“Scranton does not pressure you into taking as many classes as possible at once,” Dillon said. “They are flexible and the advisors have been beyond helpful from day one. The school provides practical training. Through the practicum class, you create your own curriculum as well as complete 150 observation hours. ”
Her advice to prospective students looking to advance their education is to just go ahead and do it.
“There is no time like the present, and the more you push off your education, the easier it is to claim that it is not necessary,” Dillon said. “As an educator, you don’t want to get stuck in a rut. You want to be ahead of the game and ready for the challenges that the world of education presents. With this program, you will learn how to help design and implement meaningful curriculum that can improve the learning of your students and the quality of your district.”
When she’s not teaching math to her students, sometimes Dillon likes to dance and lip sync to popular songs – and her students have seen it in the classroom, as well as in a school talent show.
“I actually convinced myself I was Beyonce for those few seconds of fame,” Dillon said.