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Helping others learn has been a 'blessing' for educator

Robert Houk • Jan 17, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Nancy Dishner is president and CEO of the Niswonger Foundation, which was established in 2001 to create opportunities for individual and community growth through education.

Dishner is a lifelong resident of Northeast Tennessee. She has spent her career as an advocate for improving education, particularly in rural communities.

Prior to her work at the Niswonger Foundation, Dishner served in a number of roles in education, including public school teacher, university administrator and college professor.

Fast Facts

Dog or cat: “I admire cats. I love and adore dogs.”

Favorite book: “I subscribe to Mark Twain’s philosophy ‘You will be the same person you are today in five years but for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.’ I am what I am because of books and relationships. While so difficult to choose one, more recently I was impacted by a book by Andy Andrews, ‘The Noticer.’ It is an interesting and helpful look at the meaning of life.”

How do you unwind: “I don’t. And, that is not stated as a compliment. It is an unfortunate habit. I greatly admire others who can and do.”

HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORK AT THE NISWONGER FOUNDATION?

My work is both a wholehearted challenge and a remarkable blessing. The challenge comes from understanding the endless challenges and possibilities. The blessings come daily, watching as our team provides opportunities and impacts lives.

WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR JOB?

Oh, there are so many. My “batteries” recharge every time I enter a school — elementary through university. I am “a moth to a flame” wherever I see learning taking place. Likewise, great rewards come from being with our Niswonger Scholars. Experiencing the world with them allows me to be a perpetual 19-year-old.

WHAT LED YOU TO WORKING IN EDUCATION?

I come from a family of dedicated educators. I grew up seeing the impact my father and mother had as teachers and mentors. I believe that passion for helping others to see greater goals for their lives is in my DNA.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE CONSIDERING A SIMILAR CAREER?

There is no career path that will bring greater blessings. But, it is a path of personal sacrifice. Your blessings will not come with monetary reward, but with your heart swelling with pride as you see those “lightbulb moments” in the eyes of children.

IS THERE SOMETHING YOU THINK CAN BE A GAME CHANGER FOR EDUCATION IN OUR REGION?

Yes. It would be seeing our communities, businesses, parents/families and elected officials honoring, respecting, supporting and advocating for our educators — recognizing the invaluable role they play in the future of our children and this region. Simply stated, it would be following Scott Niswonger’s vision: “Learn, Earn, Return.”

 

 

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