Meet Dianne Braden: High School Journalism and Technology TeacherAugust 07, 2009
It has been a year since I left teaching, and hearing the story of retired high school teacher Dianne Braden brought tears to my eyes. In the classroom I was inspired when students grasped the language of Shakespeare or wrote a research paper using proper internal citations. These days I am inspired by learning and writing about AAUW’s fellowship alumnae who, like Dianne, have made a difference both in and out of the classroom.
This ability to watch students grow and achieve on their own is one of the best parts of teaching, and I think Dianne Braden, 2003–04 Eleanor Roosevelt Teaching Fellow, would agree. “The most rewarding part is seeing the metamorphosis of my students,” Dianne explained, telling the story of a high school girl who learned a lot about herself while working on a group technology project. The student was pregnant, came from an undocumented family, and had a boyfriend who did not support her schoolwork. She had little technology experience and saw herself as a liability to the group, but this didn’t stop her from putting in many hours after school and on weekends to get the work done. When it came time to be judged on the project the girl, wearing clothes borrowed from a classmate, took her turn explaining the specifics of the project; in the end, the group qualified for a state competition. After the competition, as Dianne was driving the student home, the girl said, “From now on I know I am worth something, that I have accomplished something worthwhile. It will be mine forever, and I will never forget it.”
Just as Dianne influenced the lives of her students, she also recognizes the profound effect her students had on her: “My students helped me to see my own power. In the beginning they saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself. We believed in each other; all of us grew and accomplished things that were often surprising.”
Having at first eschewed traditional women’s careers, Dianne moved into teaching after working as a journalist covering local teas and other social events. The Eleanor Roosevelt Teaching Fellowship, which Dianne called “career affirming,” helped her expand her expertise into multimedia. She said, “I never took a computer class, and yet I developed some of the first multimedia classes in Arizona high schools.” This new role allowed Dianne to encourage and foster excitement about science and technology in her female students who had a tendency to take a backseat role.
Reflecting on my own departure from the classroom, I asked Dianne what she missed most. She said, “If I didn’t still see so many of my students, I would say, ‘my students.’” However, Dianne makes a point to keep in touch with her former students even though both she and they have moved on from their high school days. Dianne’s story is an inspiring example of how we can draw on the past while continuing to move forward and influence others in the future.