North Carolina Department of Correction News - May 1999
Instructor at Harnett named Teacher of the Year
LILLINGTON Dana Leebrick has come a long way since his school days when he used to struggle to get through his math classes and, at one point, was even kicked out of college for having such poor grades.
|Now in his job as a GED
math teacher for Central Carolina Community College at
Harnett Correctional Institution, Leebrick strives to
help others grasp the same basic mathematical concepts
that he wrestled with as a student some 30 years ago. In
fact, he does such a good job teaching math to the
inmates at Harnett that he was selected as the 1999
Teacher of the Year by the North Carolina Correctional
A teacher at Harnett for the past 27 years, Leebrick is widely respected for his competence in preparing his students for success in taking the GED test in mathematics. Marilyn Richardson, a social studies teacher at Morrison Youth Institution and immediate past director for the Correctional Education Associations Region VIII, said Leebrick deserves the recognition he has received.
"Danas been around for 27 years at the same facility. That in itself deserves an award," she said. "But he is also a great teacher. Hes a good role model, and he has such enthusiasm for his work even after all these years."
Leebrick believes the difficulties he experienced as a student have helped him become a more effective teacher to the inmates, most who have had their own share of problems with school.
"School was a real struggle for me," he said. "I had trouble with math when I was in school, and it took me seven years just to get through college. So I know where these guys are coming from when they say they dont think they can do it. I tell them Ive been right where they are."
Leebrick said many of the students in his GED math class dropped out or were kicked out of school at an early age. Others were labeled slow or learning disabled and dont believe that they are capable of learning. Math scares them all to death.
Thats where Leebrick steps in. He said he gets a lot of enjoyment out of taking an inmate who thinks he is incapable of learning and proving him wrong. Instead of trying to fill the inmates heads with a lot of mathematical rules that they must follow, Leebrick uses a different approach.
"Over the years, Ive learned little tricks to help them such as talking in terms of money," he said. "If you have a math problem and you explain the problem in terms of money, they can pick it up, because money is interesting to them."
Leebrick said his goal is to teach the inmates enough to pass the GED test, not to make them mathematical scholars.
"If a guy does get his GED, it gives him more to work with when he gets out. Employers are looking for that extra bit of education these days," he said. "Almost invariably, when a man winds up getting his GED, he comes back and tells us how much its helped him."
Knowing that he is helping others is the main reason Leebrick has stayed in his position as a teacher at Harnett for nearly three decades. The other is that he doesnt think he could handle teaching students in the public school system.
"Id take prison any day over the public schools," he said. "I dont think I could put up with all the discipline problems that take place in the public school system."
As North Carolinas Correctional Education Teacher of the Year, Leebrick will now be considered for Teacher of the Year for Region VIII of the Correctional Education Association which encompasses most of the southeastern United States. u
NC DOC Homepage
NC DOC News
NC DOC WEB Index
E-mail NC DOC