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Lori Gibson
Lori Gibson used life’s challenges to fuel her determination and found her place in the teaching field.

​Contact: Cesar Canizales

For immediate release — June 30, 2017

(DALLAS) — Some people might consider being dyslexic and a single parent as deterrents when it comes to earning a college degree. Lori Gibson did not see those issues as obstacles. Instead, they made her more determined to succeed in school because she wanted to ensure that her two daughters would have a good future.

Gibson, a 26-year-old former STEM Scholar in the Dallas County Community College District, graduated from North Lake College in 2015 with an associate degree and then transferred to the University of Texas at Arlington. In May, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology and composite science with nearly a 4.0 grade point average.

The STEM Institute is a competitive program at DCCCD that recruits students to enroll in STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and encourages them to pursue careers in those fields. The program provides academic support and prepares students to transfer to universities. It also provides scholarship funding that covers tuition, fees and books.

Before she started college, Gibson said she wanted to become a wildlife veterinarian, but she looked at that option from the perspective of a single parent with two daughters, who are now ages 8 and 5. She decided pursuing that path would take too much time and money.

“I thought, ‘What is something I want to do and that I’m good at?’ I’m very good at breaking down terms and difficult concepts into layman’s terms,” Gibson said.

While she was still at North Lake, Gibson toured UTA and its UTeach program, which is a University of Texas system initiative that prepares students to become math and science teachers. The program is separate from UTA’s College of Education, but both entities operate collaboratively.

UTeach was exactly what Gibson was looking for. “I fell in love with the program because I knew I wanted to teach, but I didn’t want a degree in teaching,” she said.

Gibson then learned she could get a degree in science and earn teacher certification through the UTeach program. DCCCD’s STEM Institute paid for her to take the two introductory UTeach classes the university offers as a trial run for students who are interested in testing whether they really want to become teachers.

“The program is different because it’s geared toward inquiry learning using a more hands-on approach, and the teachers are more like guides instead of lecturers,” Gibson said. “As a teacher, I want to let kids figure out the lessons for themselves. To me, it’s not just, ‘Write this definition down, read this book and read this article.’ I want to place them in a classroom and have students actually enjoy what they’re doing, instead of sitting at a desk and staring at a screen.”

Gibson traveled a long road toward her academic success. Her elementary school teachers didn’t realize until she was in third grade that she couldn’t read because of her dyslexia. She said she taught herself how to read by looking at the subtitles in “Gilligan’s Island” reruns on TV, and she didn’t actually enjoy reading until she was pregnant with her first daughter at age 16. “Now my house is full of books, and all I do is read!” she exclaimed.

Gibson said she plans to stay in the area and already has an offer from Irving High School to teach biology in the fall. With her certification, she can teach science classes from grades 7 through 12.

Eventually, Gibson said she would like to go back to school to earn a master’s degree and, later, a doctorate so that she can teach at a university or community college.

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