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story.lead_photo.caption Brandy Dillin, principal of Beebe Middle School in McRae, is also the director of Special Programs for the district. Dillin said she was inspired to become an educator and to work with special-education students, specifically, after witnessing her grandmother struggle with dyslexia. ( Mark Buffalo)

— At Beebe Middle School in McRae, Principal Brandy Dillin stresses three core values: Be honest, work hard and treat others with respect.

Dillin has been principal at Beebe Middle School in McRae for four years and was previously assistant principal at Beebe High School for four years and director of alternative education at the district for four years. She is also director of Special Programs, which includes special education, for the Beebe Public Schools.

“Beebe is a very good school [with] great course offerings. [I’m] proud to be a part of the school district. I think we are one of the best schools in Arkansas,” she said. “We have a lot of services, and we provide what the kids need.”

Dillin’s inspiration for becoming an educator, and working with special education specifically, stems from memories of her grandmother, with whom Dillin lived from ages 13 to 18. Dillin remembers her grandmother always struggling with reading, and her grandmother later learned she had dyslexia.

“It was my dream to help kids learn how to read because I knew what my grandma had gone through,” said Dillin, a Beebe native and a 1995 Beebe High School graduate. “She was not diagnosed until her 40s, so she went through her whole life just thinking she couldn’t learn, when, in fact, she had a disability.”

Dillin received a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Central Arkansas and a master’s degree from Arkansas State University. She plans to graduate with a doctorate from ASU in May 2017.

In her time at Beebe, Dillin helped begin the district’s alternative learning center; Badger Fest, the school’s basketball homecoming celebration; and the Second Chance Program, of which she is very proud, she said.

“It [began as] a program for people ages 18 to 21 who have dropped out of school,” she said. “They came back, completed graduation requirements and got a Beebe High School diploma, and now that has lingered down to a program where kids, even if they’re in the ninth grade, if they’re failing something, they can go over there for credit recovery and stay on top of their credits.”

Though she’s received many educational degrees and various accolades, Dillin said, she cites one award as having a special impact on her life.

Dillin is a recipient of Beebe High School’s Helping Other People Exceed (HOPE) award, which seniors give to a mentorlike figure in the district.

“[A student] wrote me a very nice letter saying, ‘You stood out in the hall every day. You gave us hugs even as seniors. You complimented us on the way we looked if we lost weight, made sure we were having a good day,’” Dillin said. “And that right there got her through her year. And just the little things that didn’t seem like anything to me were a big thing to her.”

Judy Alexander, media specialist for the Beebe Public Schools, said she’s known Dillin since she was in high school. Alexander said that when Dillin was assistant principal at Beebe High School, her admiration for Dillin grew.

“She is a great leader because of her loving heart for the people around her, her passion for education and her motivation to make the world around her better today than it was yesterday,” Alexander said through an email. “She is such a pleasant person to be around. She is loving, compassionate and very intelligent. She truly cares about the students, faculty and staff in her school. She wants all the students to experience success.”

With special education, transparency is key, Dillin said, and with the right help, students can be successful. Many families put their trust in a school when their child enrolls, so it’s important for schools to be honest about graduation requirements and services provided by the school. When it can’t provide what the student needs, the parent should be given the option of a resource that can, Dillin said.

“Whenever you do special ed, it’s individualized instruction,” she said. “That may mean from the actual academic piece to the actual related service — just getting the kids what they need to meet their own potential.”

Relating to middle school students — Beebe Middle School includes fifth- and sixth-graders — is a different experience than relating to high school students because, Dillin said, she cannot use her life experiences as a testimony to students.

“Down here, it’s not so appropriate to say, ‘Hey, I was a single mother. I had two kids prior to being married,’” she said. “I can’t tell that and use that as a testimony down here where I can up there. That’s kind of what I miss.”

Dillin lives in Beebe with her husband, Mickey, and sons, Brandon, 17, a Beebe High School senior, and Baylee, 16, a Riverview High School senior in Searcy. Dillin’s hobbies include being involved with Susan G. Komen breast-cancer awareness, healthy living and advocating for mental-health disabilities.

“The kids are our future,” she said. “What makes me more excited is being able to have a little bit of a portion of their life where I can have any influence or any impact on them.”

Staff writer Syd Hayman can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or shayman@arkansasonline.com.

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