By RICK WATSON
When we look back on our high school years, we recall certain teachers—not the ones who let us slide, but the tough teachers who somehow reached inside us and brought out an ability or talent we didn’t know we had.
For many at Mountain Brook High School, that teacher is Diana Plosser. Plosser has dedicated 21 years there doing what she loves—teaching advanced third-year, advanced fourth-year and advanced placement Latin.
“Mrs. Plosser is an incredible teacher,” said former student Ann Watford. “She had high expectations for each of us and made us feel that we could live up to those expectations.”
For Plosser, teaching is not a job but a calling. “If I work hard, it encourages my students to work hard. There’s nothing worse than a teacher who expects the students to do all the work.”
Every day Plosser spends three to five hours outside class daily grading papers and preparing for the next sessions.
In the advanced placement courses, she assigns some 20 lines of Latin each night for students to translate. Afterward, she goes over every word on every paper to verify that the student understands the language and the concepts involved.
Each individual receives immediate feedback on troublesome areas, and if the larger group trends toward a common problem, she covers those topics the next day at the beginning of class.
“I think it’s Mrs. Plosser’s focus on the individual student that sets her apart and helps students to keep up with the pace she sets,” Watford said.
Although Latin and other foreign languages are considered electives in high school, most colleges require two years of language study. Schools with more competitive admission require three years.
Many students gravitate toward modern languages like Spanish or French, but the interesting thing about Latin, according to Plosser, is that through study of it students learn not only the language but events that happened in an ancient world and how they apply to life today.
“These are universal truths and the wisdom of the ages,” she said. “Studying languages, in general, helps students learn to think on a higher level than they would otherwise.”
Her initial decision to go into teaching was an easy one. “I love learning, and I love school,” she said. Even when she took off work a few years to raise her own children, she spent a great deal of time volunteering in educational settings: programs for the Junior League, workshops for United Way training and helping develop the walking tour for a local historical society.
For Plosser, teaching is a reward made even more satisfying by seeing students succeed after they leave her classroom. She feels that the ongoing relationship with past students is one of the most satisfying things about her profession. “I’m always their teacher, and they’re always my student,” she said. “When we meet, I don’t necessarily want to know about their love life or other details. What I’m most interested in is exchanging ideas.”
Plosser’s alumni say she also serves as a sounding board and encourager to her students—it’s not uncommon for them to come to her for advice about their future plans and decisions.
“Mrs. Plosser wants us not only to get a good grade, but to understand the material,” student Mary B. Garrett said. “She also wants to help us be successful at whatever we do.”
Mrs. Plosser’s achievements have also been recognized outside of Mountain Brook. Last year she was a finalist in Jacksonville State University’s Teacher of the Year Hall of Fame.
For Plosser, though, any recognition fades to the background in comparison to what happens each day in her classroom. “This is what I do,” she says. “This is who I am.”