By Nathan McIvor ’17
Exposed to diversity at a young age due to her Baltimore upbringing, Laurie Zimmerli, Lincoln Academy’s Director of Special Education, now applies her extensive life experience to her role in “improving and building up” the department’s offerings. Zimmerli, who is beginning her second year at LA, spoke from her office in the main building, and explained how she values the community ethos that distinguishes Lincoln.
Citing the school’s new Eagle Term program—where students take short, intensive classes of interest to them—as a fine example, she praised how “everyone participates and is part of a group, as both students who require special services and AP kids are integrated in the same courses.”
Leaving her home was tough adjustment; when she first moved to Maine, she was struck by how “everybody knows everybody else, and being from the city, that’s not the norm for me.” She now claims to now enjoy the pace of country life.
Previously the principal of a special education high school in Baltimore, Zimmerli brings twenty-one years of professional experience to her current role, but notes that she had plenty of growing to do along the way. While attending Towson University, she struggled to find her own learning style; focused and deliberate hard work on her part allowed her to overcome her weaknesses and developed effective time-management skills in order to complete her B.A. in History. The experience served as primer for achieving higher goals. She would go on to earn two M.S. degrees, in Special Education and Educational Administration, respectively, from McDaniel College, a mark of her motivation to get ahead.
Her biggest achievement, earning her doctorate, remains a point of pride.
“I can’t believe it,” she reminisces. The process, which took six years for her, was difficult, but she kept going. When asked if it seemed like a huge time commitment, she related a conversation she had with a friend. “Whether you complete the doctorate or not, you’re still going to be forty-seven. So you might as well be forty-seven and have a doctorate.” So she did exactly that. Since earning a Ph.D. in educational leadership from the University of Maryland at Western Shore, she returned to her hometown to begin her career in special education.
Zimmerli’s upbringing gave her a broad view of diversity that she brings to her current position; the Jewish neighborhood she previously resided in coexisted with the various other ethnic niches, causing an early exposure to America’s melting pot. Her view of multicultural life was broadened as her family moved around to different neighborhoods in the city.
When asked about what drew her to Lincoln, Zimmerli cites the school’s varied and unique student body, a virtue, one benefiting from her mantra that “all students are capable of achieving great things, some just need more support.” Already, community service has been introduced to students in the Special Education program, who built a boardwalk for the LA Cross Country Trail during Eagle Term, integrated with other students. Her philosophy put into practice, is thus proven.
Zimmerli lives in East Boothbay.
Nathan McIvor is a 2017 graduate of Lincoln Academy and an intern in the LA Communications Office