Dianne Somers: English as a Second Language; Nurturing as Second Nature
How long did you spend at your first job? If you’re Dianne Somers, the answer is easy—she never left. The director of the International Student Program first stepped foot on campus in 1978. “I didn’t know it would be my first—and last—job,” she jokes.
Ms. Somers has been an integral part of The Hun School experience for forty-three years. During her tenure, she has taught English as a Second Language and French in the Upper School, and English and French in the Middle School. She was also tasked with shepherding the American Culture and Language Institute, a summer resident program for international students based at Hun, and has been a faculty advisor to the international student and chess clubs. In the early 1990s, she became director of the international student program.
However, it has been her role outside of the classroom that has made her so beloved. As program director, she has been a teacher, counselor, and surrogate parent to resident students from around the world. “They have been family to me,” she explains. In several cases, she has even taught several generations of the same family—an experience she cherishes.
Pick any country on a map, and it is likely that Ms. Somers has a connection to a Hun alumnus there. It’s also likely that she stays in touch with him or her. An inveterate traveler, she spends School breaks and summer vacations traveling the globe to visit her former students. She Is often invited to weddings, baby showers, and other milestones—a testament to the relationships she forges with students. To Ms. Somers, it has been a great privilege: “I feel lucky that their parents shared them with me.” Those parents feel lucky, too. On a trip to Taiwan to visit a former student, the alumna’s mother spent extra time coddling Ms. Somers. “I was surprised she wanted to spend time with me, but she told me, ‘you raised my child.’”
Though she grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania she describes as “a valley between two rivers, where nobody was different,” she has spent a lifetime creating cross-cultural connections. It has made for an inspiring career, and an even more interesting classroom. “The conversation in the classroom when you have people from all over the world and you see how different countries handle the same issue…it’s been a real gift.”
Stepping in as a surrogate parent to thousands of students may not have been daunting to her, but her upcoming retirement gives her pause. “It’s a frightening question…what will you do in your retirement? I may do nothing for a little bit. It’s a big transition,” she shares.
It is one she seems ready for, though. “I’ve spent my whole life in school since I was five. Students always ask me to delay retirement until they graduate, but I have to graduate at some point,” she jokes.
She may be keeping her plans flexible, but there is one thing she knows she wants to do. “I want to get traveling again, especially to Portugal.” It’s the one place she doesn’t know any students.
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