Welcome to our new series, which features posts about staff members at the ATPE state office. This week’s post features Donna Derryberry, member legal services director.
What drew you to working at ATPE?
As a former educator and a litigation attorney, I was excited by the prospect of a position that would allow me to combine my two professions. My previous firm represented clients in medical malpractice, business litigation, products liability, and mass torts at the national level, and due to the variety of cases, I found it difficult to develop an area of specialty. I celebrated the education and employment law niche I found at ATPE. I was employed at ATPE a few short months before reality set in as to the breadth and scope of the many issues the legal department deals with each day—any statute in the Texas Education Code and accompanying regulations, state and federal employment laws and regulations, certification agency rules, etc., etc. I discovered my niche in the law was a vast, ever-expanding legal beast. Nevertheless, it is my career niche and I have never regretted one moment leaping into this area of the law.
How long have you been working at ATPE? What was your first job here?
My time at ATPE has gone by so quickly. It is difficult to believe that in August of this year, I will start my 18th year at ATPE. When I first became employed with ATPE, I was a staff attorney. Approximately six months later, I began managing the legal department.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned while working here?
Education has changed immensely since my days in the classroom, with increasing accountability and advances in technology. When I taught school, I came to believe teaching was the second most challenging and rewarding job, next to being a great parent. While working at ATPE, I have learned that belief holds true today after experiencing education from the legislative, legal, and administrative agency side. I still believe a teacher can make a difference in a child’s life and teaching remains one of the most important professions regardless of the monetary value placed on it by society.
What is your favorite part of working at ATPE?
My favorite part of working at ATPE is very similar to why I enjoyed teaching—the people. In the education environment, it was other educators, colleagues, students, and parents. At ATPE, my favorite part is definitely our loyal members, volunteers, and leaders, and the committed ATPE staff. I am privileged and honored to work with such gifted staff who are devoted to serving ATPE members.
Share something fun about yourself that ATPE members might not know.
During my sixth year of teaching, I was fortunate enough to be selected as the Aldine District Teacher of the Year in Region 4. Coincidentally, that same year my mother, a long-time member of ATPE, was also selected as Missouri City District Teacher of the Year in Region 4. We competed against each other for Region 4 Teacher of the Year, and as it should have been, my mother was selected as Region 4 Teacher of the Year. (After loving and rearing me since birth, letting her win was the least I could do—just kidding, Mom!)