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Dil Uswatte

Dil
GS:       Where are you from?

DU:      I was born in Germany to Sri Lankan parents, but grew up in Canada, age 2 to 27, then left for the U.S. after getting married.

GS:       Why did you decide to go into teaching?

DU:      There are several reasons:

1)      Even as a kid, I loved playing “school,” especially giving out positive check marks.

2)      I realized as a student that I had a way of helping my friends to understand material easier.

3)      I REALLY admired my own teachers- they were so inspirational and important in my life.

4)      I always enjoyed school- it was a safe and fun place for me as a kid.  I wanted to create that environment for others, and provide opportunities to grow “future leaders.”

GS:       When and where did you get your master’s degree and in what field (or concentration)?

DU:      I have two degrees from Canada – a BSC in Biology (1996)and a B.Ed. in Intermediate Science and Math Education (1997).   When I came here in 2002, I started by M.Ed. in Educational Leadership at UAB. I finished in 2004.

GS:       Why did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree?

DU:      I am a life-long learner.  I want to continue my journey of developing my own leadership skills AND inspire leadership in my students and colleagues. I believe in “the power of together.” This philosophy is a recognition that more good can be done if I combine my talents with the talents of my teammates.  It means believing that my teammates are not only fellow educators but parents, the community, and especially the students.  It is treating all my teammates with respect, recognizing their gifts, and helping them to grow in a positive environment.   It means inspiring others by getting involved in important education and community activities and opening myself up to be inspired by  giving my full attention to my teammates.  “The power of together” means that I need to give my best every single day and provide the environment needed to harness the power of my teammates.  Perhaps the following examples will not only further your understanding of my educational philosophy but will help you to realize that it is a philosophy put into action.

GS:       Why did you choose UAB?

DU:      My husband is an associate professor in the Psychology department.  He spoke highly of the university.  What has impressed me this year, however, is how much the School of Educational Leadership Programs have improved.  The courses are more rigorous with higher expectations.

GS:       What professional awards have you received?

DU:      In October 2009, I received a national **Milken Educator Award. I also received an Alabama Teacher Hall of Fame award in 2009 (via Jacksonville University, and a Positive Image Award in 2009 (Hoover City Schools).

GS:       What are your plans for the future?

DU:     

1)      Pursue other leadership positions. I am currently an Assistant Principal at Rocky Ridge Elementary.

2)      Complete a math book that I am writing with my math students

3)      Find ways of highlighting the outstanding work of other teachers in my system and in the state.  My new mission is “ Operation: Greatness… Found”

GS:       Do you have any advice/wisdom for other graduate students and/or educators?

DU:      Take the time to identify your gifts and USE these gifts to bring out the gifts/greatness in others.

**For more information regarding the Milken Family Foundation and a biography on Dil, click here. To view the video of Dil's surprise award presentation, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDm8b-oLWCM.