Dianne Somers, International Student Program director and a forty-year veteran of the Hun School, has been awarded the Distinguished Endowed Faculty Chair. This award is The Hun School’s most prestigious faculty honor, given biennially to a teacher who exemplifies the highest standards of Hun instruction.
“It’s an honor,” said Ms. Somers, who has taught English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) at Hun since 1978. She has also been the director of the Arthur Rozas International Student Program for more than twenty years, acting as counselor and organizer to the students who come to Hun from twenty-six different countries. Additionally, she is director of the American Culture and Language institute, a summer program that welcomes international students for an immersive educational experience.
Recipients are nominated by their peers and chosen by a committee of former honorees and administrators. The two-year honor prize is given to a teacher who “best represents the importance and value of teaching,” according to its description.
“We call Ms. Somers the ‘Mother of Boarders’,” said Henry Lazarev ’20, a Russian student who has attended Hun for five years, first as a summer student, and fulltime for the last two years. “She is the first person you go to with any kind of problem, whether you broke up with someone, or you got a C on a physics exam. You can feel safe your conversation will remain between you. She does a great job; she deserves the honor.”
Ms. Somers grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, and said attending Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., set her on the path to her international interest.
“I heard every language imaginable at Georgetown and met people from all over the world, and it was fascinating,” said Ms. Somers. She enrolled in the Georgetown ESL teaching program and loved it. She came to Hun shortly after graduation to teach ESL and French. (After five years, she shifted solely to ESL.) In the Rozas program, Ms. Somers heads a team of faculty and staff that provide academic, emotional, social, and practical support to international students. In addition to her undergraduate degree, Ms. Somers has a Masters in school counseling.
Chair of the Modern Language and Classics Department Jennifer Mitchell, who has known Ms. Somers for twenty-four years, said she does her job so seamlessly that her hard work and constant innovation may not always be apparent.
“When she does her job well, you don’t notice it, because its smooth sailing for her students,” said Ms. Mitchell. “Because she’s so good at her job, the kids thrive.”
Ms. Somers’ international interests don’t end with her job. In her spare time, Ms. Somers is a cook of international cuisine and an avid traveler, often visiting her students past and present, but always traveling solo.
“Traveling alone you can make your own itinerary,” said Ms. Somers, who has been to twenty-six countries. When not abroad, Ms. Somers lives in nearby Lawrenceville and spends time with her grown children, Melissa ’95 and John.
And though she’s been teaching for a very long time, it never gets old.
“My favorite part of teaching, even though it’s been forty years, is that every day is different,” she said of her continuing joy as an educator. “It’s very organic, and very alive. It changes all the time.”