age: 29 | Theatre Teacher Texarkana Arkansas School District — Arkansas High School
Ask any teacher what their favorite part of their job is, and they’ll tell you: the students. It’s those interpersonal relationships that make long hours, heavy workloads, and emotional labor worth it. Laila Al-Dubais is no exception, and her passion for people transcends the classroom.
The Arkansas High theatre teacher, Laila loves her job. “Teaching high school theatre is, and has always been, the biggest dream of mine,” she said. “Through teaching, I have learned more about myself than ever before. My students encourage me to become a better person, not only for myself, but for them.”
Laila’s greatest accomplishments are the accomplishments of her students; when they succeed, she succeeds. One of these success stories is that of a student who performed in one of Laila’s productions during her first year of teaching. “After the show was over,” she recalled, “[the student’s] mother came up to me in tears telling me how, in the previous year, he had been so afraid of getting up in front of others that he took a zero on a class presentation about himself. To see this student achieve so much in so little time gave me the confidence that I was doing something right in my classroom.”
Best advice you’ve ever received:
“GOD’S PLANS FOR ME ARE NOT ALWAYS MY PLANS.” —VICKIE AL-DUBAIS, LAILA’S MOTHER
Laila’s devotion to Texarkana’s young people expresses itself not only at work but also in her free time. A member of the International Rotary Club, she is deeply involved in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) camps—and has been since she herself was a student in the program. “For the past 12 years, I have dedicated my time to helping high school juniors see the potential in themselves to become better leaders in their schools and communities,” she said.
Laila is engaged to Andrew Miller, and spends a lot of time volunteering with her mother, Vickie, through Dierksen Hospice. The musical duo visits nursing homes and other facilities in the area to perform songs for senior citizens. “One of the places we volunteer has an Alzheimer’s wing,” she explained. “When I see [the residents’] eyes light up when they recognize a song from their youth, it is one of the most magical things to ever witness, and I feel blessed to be able to bring some joy to their lives.”
Name something about you that very few people know:
“Everyone asks about the heritage of my name. My father is from Saudi Arabia. When my mom was picking out names, she wanted to honor his background. Laila means ‘born at night’ in Arabic and Hebrew. Ali is my father’s first name, which is an Arabic tradition that all children carry their father’s first name as their middle name.”