Alumni Profile: Jennifer Diliberto

Jennifer Diliberto decided in seventh grade that she wanted to be a special education teacher, primarily because of her success as a student at Hill School. While the road was sometimes bumpy, Jennifer carved out a clear path leading to that goal. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from Western Carolina University, a Masters from North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She taught in special education classrooms for ten years before moving into teacher education. She is currently a Clinical Associate Professor of Special Education at UNC-CH, helping prepare more teachers for this field.

Jennifer attended Hill School from sixth through ninth grade, returning full-time to Chapel Hill High School before graduating in 1991. The most outstanding part of her time at Hill was, “I learned to read!” She also began to understand herself as a learner. She felt Hill was a safe place where she no longer needed to “pull back and hide”. As her skills and confidence grew, Jennifer became more self-determined and goal-oriented. Hill was “more than the methods.” The small class size, other students with similar struggles, and the freedom of not being worried about making mistakes or asking questions were other contributing factors in her success. “All the teachers, not just the ones who taught me, understood us and what we needed in order to learn.”

The self-advocacy, reading, and writing skills Jennifer developed at Hill School carried over to her undergraduate and graduate studies. Receiving the necessary accommodations was actually easier at the university level than it had been in high school. As a result of her dissertation research, Jennifer has developed and published a supplemental curriculum, Taking on Tough Words, which provides instruction and practice in reading and spelling multisyllabic words. “Taking on Tough Words is a researched curriculum that helps upper elementary through high school students master the phonics rules and word recognition necessary to read and spell multisyllabic words.”

Jennifer, her husband, and their three sons live in Greensboro.

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