When Dr. Dolly Liburd was just a little girl, she played school by "teaching" anything that could be placed into rows-dolls, chairs, even braided blades of tall grass. Today, with 23 years of experience teaching in both her native Caribbean homeland and La Porte ISD classrooms, the reading specialist at Lomax Junior High School has made an impact on many hundreds of students.
Liburd's success in the profession she loves beyond measure was recently recognized by her colleagues across the state. The educator who describes herself as "passionate about literacy" was named Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Texas Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts.
You were born to teach," one of her university supervisors once told her, and nowhere is Liburd more at home than in her junior high classroom. Surrounded by her seventh- and eighth-grade students, she is committed to ensuring that they can read so that none of them "fall through the cracks."
"Education is the ladder that affords all students the opportunity to climb toward their full potential," Liburd said. "The rungs on the educational ladder vary. This difference necessitates that teaching be diversified, so that each student will have the opportunity to continue the climb."
Liburd explains that she views her students as individuals, and they "seldom get the opportunity to hide among the conglomerate of identities that typify a classroom." Chairs and tables in her classroom are arranged in a horseshoe formation so that there is not a typical "back of the class where students tend to feel out of reach."
Liburd qualified to begin teaching in the Caribbean right after high school based upon her scores on a comprehensive exam her final year. After two years of teaching fifth grade, she entered The Teachers' Training College, from which she graduated two years later. She taught kindergarten for seven years and fifth grade for two years at St. Peter's Elementary School in the Caribbean.
"For me, teaching was first an experience before it became a university course of study," she said.
Then, she relocated to the United States and continued her studies in education. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and completed her doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the University of Houston in 2007. She began teaching at LPISD's Baker Sixth Grade Campus in 1995, and in 2004, moved to her current position at Lomax Junior High.
"Dr. Liburd is a respected member of the Lobo faculty," said Stephanie Cox, principal of Lomax Junior High School. "She is constantly pushing each staff member beyond what he or she believes is possible. Through her leadership, teachers are empowered to learn and grow. This directly impacts all students on our campus, and we are lucky to work with Dr. Liburd each and every day."
Liburd was recognized as Baker's Campus Teacher of the Year during the 2000-2001 school year and as Lomax Junior High's Campus Teacher of the Year in 2007-2008. In 2008, she was also chosen as LPISD's District Secondary Teacher of the Year.
For Liburd, teaching is a way of life that doesn't stop when the school bell rings. She also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and is involved in a variety of education activities at La Porte's Abundant Life Church, where she has taught children's Sunday school classes and helped to organize Vacation Bible School for many years.
Liburd's achievements in teaching are ignited by her passion to help adolescent students become "efficient and effective lifelong readers." Beyond academics, she explains, reading helps students to understand the diversity of ways of life from which they can choose, vicariously experience things they cannot imagine, view problems from a different perspective, and through this, learn from another story.
In the end, she hopes that her students "are literate citizens who can use print to inform and be informed, to become critical reviewers of information and to find literature a source of enjoyment," Liburd said. "This is reading beyond the 'exit' doors."