Written by: Dinorah Peña-Durán

Terri Pollard Dodds is one year short of her third decade working at Irving ISD. She is the epitome of a game changer, a teacher that, for 29 years, has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of students who have just arrived in the United States. These are students who face the challenges of leaving their homes and starting a new life in a country with a different language than their native one.

Pollard completed her student teaching at MacArthur High School and  she helped establish the ESL program at Austin, Bowie, Lamar and Houston middle schools as an ESL specialist. Now , she serves as an ESL/English 1 teacher at Nimitz High School. 

“Working with children from other countries and cultures opened up new worlds to me,” says Pollard Dodds. “As I taught them, they taught me so much more.  Learning about other cultures teaches a person to appreciate the world in many different ways. Every year, I am in awe at the generosity of ESL students and families. They often have so very little but share what they have freely.” 

As the mother of three teenage boys herself, her maternal instinct is not restricted to just her household. She makes sure that every single one of her students is taken care of not only academically, but physically as well. She goes out of her way to make sure students who need glasses can get them, that students who are homeless are enrolled in Project PASS, that students who need transportation, food, clothes, internet access, electronic devices, medical care or even just a few toiletries, get what they need.

Ms. Pollard Dodds is one of the most helpful people I know,” says Susanna Huffman, ESL teacher at Nimitz. “In my 15 years as a teacher at Nimitz, I don’t think anyone has ever been there for me more than her. She will go above and beyond not only for her students, but staff members as well.”

As the LPAC expert and leader, Pollard Dodds is highly knowledgeable about common issues that arise with new immigrant students. She is the go-to when the school needs records from schools in other countries; she readily anticipates questions and concerns of immigrant parents and students; and she can tell you just about everything about the social services offered in the city of Irving that can help our students in the district.

“Among many essential things I learned from Terri about how to best help immigrant students apply to college and for scholarships—adds Huffman—“And, of course, she was there for me in my classroom 15 years ago when I was presented with 30 non-English speakers, getting me started by showing me techniques and providing me with resources.”

Recently, Pollard’s youngest son sustained a bad injury that will require a lengthy recovery. . As soon as she came back from the hospital, she called her peers to express her concern about the newcomer ESL students being able to figure out how to do MAP testing. Although her colleagues assured her they would take care of it, she wanted to Zoom with the students from her home to explain the process to them, knowing how powerful a familiar face is to newcomer ELLs. All the while, her son laid in a hospital bed suffering from memory loss.

This proves how amazingly dedicated Pollard is and demonstrates just how much she cares for her students – almost as much as she cares for her own.

In her colleagues’ opinions, Pollard is both the football star and head cheerleader for ESL students. And her extraordinary work and dedication is highly appreciated.

“I am blessed to be able to work with the best students a teacher can have,” Pollard says. “I want for our ESL students to have the exact same opportunities as any other student: to be top graduates, to have access to scholarships to universities, for them to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and yes, teachers! The young people of Irving ISD are the real Game Changers of the future, and I am privileged to be able to work with them on a daily basis!”

To learn more about Irving ISD’s Bilingual, ESL and Language Services, visit IrvingISD.net/languageservices