An important but sometimes unrecognized position at a school is the speech therapist. School speech therapists serve in a vital area: language and communication development for students who have speech and language disabilities. Some co-teach in regular classrooms; others work individually with students who have difficulties. Speech therapist and McKay School alumna Dori Preston has been employed both in and out of school districts, but she was teaching regardless of the context.
Preston graduated from BYU in speech pathology and audiology department with a bachelor’s degree in 1967 and a master’s degree in 1970. While pursuing the master’s degree, she worked part time as a speech therapist in the Nebo School District. She later moved to Salt Lake City, finished her master’s, and worked as a speech therapist in the Jordan School District. “During that time speech therapy was quite traditional and rather routine,” Preston said. “I became somewhat bored with the routine, so I resigned from the school district and did some part-time work with various agencies.”
In December 1974 Preston moved to her native state, California, and worked at United California Bank until 1977. At that time she was hired by the Contra Costa Office of Education as a special day-class teacher at Liberty High School, transferring after four years to Antioch High School. After this work in the schools, she decided to work per diem for the Contra Costa Office of Education as a speech therapist at the Knoll’s Center (clinic for special education students ages 14–21), as well as other special education sites. She later transitioned back into the school district setting and finished her career as a speech therapist for the Richmond School District. “No matter where my career has taken me, teaching has always been an important part of the job description, so I am thankful for the things I learned at the McKay School,” Preston said.
After leaving and then returning to speech therapy, Preston noticed the progressive evolution of the field. “It became quite diversified,” she explained. “When I returned to do speech therapy, I found that it had branched out to working not only with students on articulation but also with those with syntax and morphology difficulties.”
Regardless of the changes in the field of speech therapy, Preston continued to find her work very rewarding. “I think one of the most rewarding times was when I worked diligently with a student who had a lateral lisp and finally learned tongue placement,” Preston said. “I also worked with developmentally delayed students and really enjoyed the interaction.”
The enjoyment of helping students is what anchored Preston through her many career transitions and her evolving field of work. “Teaching is something I think you become hooked to,” Preston added. “There is just something so fulfilling about helping people grow and learn that once you’re a teacher, you’re always a teacher.”
Preston and her husband, Willie, live in American Canyon, California where Preston is enjoying her retirement.