Behind NDA: Master Teachers

Meet Mrs. Laura Gallaher.

Along with gardening, movie popcorn (with butter!), Broadway shows and the movie Out of Africa, Mrs. Gallaher, NDA English teacher and Language Arts Department Chair is also passionate about educating young women. A graduate of The University of Toledo in English education, she has been teaching young women at NDA for 37 years.

She began teaching at NDA when there were limited choices of advanced placement courses. According to Mrs. Gallaher, “NDA is never satisfied with the status-quo. NDA administration, the Sisters of Notre Dame, and faculty have always been pro-active in researching and reviewing educational standards and statistics in order to be on the forefront of educational changes.”

“Today’s students can choose from advanced and honors courses, in all core subjects, along with International Baccalaureate coursework,” Mrs. Gallaher, a certified IB educator, explained. “IB coursework is different. Full-diploma students work in and study the three core elements of IB, the first being the theory of knowledge course, where students are asked to reflect on the nature of knowledge and how we claim to know what we know. Students also complete the final two elements, which include an independent, self-directed research essay, and they undertake a creativity, action and service project.”

Mrs. Gallaher credits becoming an IB World Diploma School as another wonderful opportunity for NDA students to gain college credit. The program and allows them to be able to choose and explore what concepts interest them, in a style of learning that will benefit them as a life-long learner.

Of course there have been many changes within the classroom as well through her tenure.  What is one of the best changes? Mrs. Gallaher regards the implementation of block scheduling as, “the best thing NDA ever did!” “With the implementation of block scheduling I, as the teacher, am able to facilitate deeper classroom discussions and also allows students to work longer on projects without interruption,” she explained. “Within one class time, I can cover a concept in what used to take multiple classes. Block scheduling also allows me more assessment time with students and allows the students to actively participate in their learning, instead of memorizing material for testing and then forgetting the lesson.”

“I am motivated to keep teaching by the enthusiasm of my students. Their interest in language and literature, and their willingness to become more proficient in writing and reading makes it a joy to keep finding new ways to teach. When asked about how the students have changed her life she said, “I like to think I have lived my life a little differently because of my 36 years of teaching all girls. I am forever committed to the notion of girl power and celebrating the feminine mystique. These girls remind me of my responsibility to keep pursuing knowledge and truth and to the importance of  being present to each other. I think I have thought more creatively and read more eclectically about issues in order to best prepare students for life beyond H.S. I’ve learned to be more accepting of the fact that people ‘arrive’ at knowledge in their own way and in their own time.”

Mrs Gallaher has also moderated the Minds Matter Club, which encourages awareness of mental health issues and support of people who may be struggling with mental health.  She was part of the NDA  Diversity Task Force in the late 1990s, which was a group of students and faculty who met monthly to address school culture and attentiveness to issues of diversity. She was also instrumental as part of the English Department initiative to implement a Summer Common Reading Program for our students, faculty and staff, which aligns with our yearly academic theme. Mrs. Gallaher also initiated the NDA  Faculty/Staff Book Club in 1990, and it has been  going strong for 29 years!

NDA is proud to have this master teacher as part of the NDA community and appreciates her dedication, commitment to education, and vision in educating young women.