Ben Lippen Stories

Staff Story: Dr. Leah Danford

Role: Accommodations Coordinator

Tell us about your family. My husband, Jamie, and I have three children, all of whom attend Ben Lippen. We both grew up in the Orangeburg area, dated in high school and throughout college, and married in 2003 after finishing our bachelor degrees. Jamie and I have lived in Columbia for 17 years. We attend Shandon Baptist Church. Our daughter will be in 4th grade, and our sons will be in 2nd grade and kindergarten. The kids love being able to have regular visits with extended family who live nearby. One of their cousins is going into the 10th grade at Ben Lippen and the other graduated from Ben Lippen in 2019.

What do you like to do in your free time? I love to run in my free time. I have been a runner for years, but some seasons of life have made it easier to fit in my schedule than others. I also really enjoy growing plants and flowers in my yard. Our family moved to a new home over the summer. It has been a lot of work getting settled in, but I have enjoyed working to make the house feel more like home. In my downtime, Jamie and I enjoy watching movies and TV shows together.

What else would you like for readers to know about you? I am trained as a school psychologist. I did my undergraduate and doctoral work at USC. Most people may not know what a school psychologist is or what they do unless they have had a need to interact with one. A school psychologist is a person who works with students, families, and schools to help students be successful despite learning, social, or behavioral challenges they may face. Working with kids in their “natural setting” at school as opposed to a doctor’s office appealed to me. I think a natural setting is the best way to get a picture of what kids are good at and what challenges they may face. I also love getting to work with the people who spend the most time with students, educating and training them about what might be most helpful for a specific child. I am one person in a student’s life, and I may be able to have a positive impact when I work with him/her directly. However, if I can help the people who work with a student daily, I believe the student has a chance for even greater outcomes. It is such an honor to be in a position to impact students over the long term.

What is something most people don’t know about you? I know some American Sign Language. I learned it as a child to be able to communicate with a friend, and it has come in handy many times since. My favorite TV shows are crime dramas and my favorite movies are suspense/thrillers. I am an early riser and enjoy running and having my quiet time with the Lord before everyone else wakes up.

Why do you choose to work at Ben Lippen? Before joining Ben Lippen’s staff a year ago, I had previously worked as a school psychologist in public schools and in a medical setting. I have experience working in the Lexington One School District and School District Five of Lexington-Richland as Counties as well as the Developmental Pediatric Clinic. I have also done contract work for the SC Virtual School, the SC Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and the Newberry County School District. Most of my experience has been with District Five, as I worked there for 13 years. My work has always involved helping all students maximize their success in school, regardless of learning challenges.

When the role of Accommodations Coordinator opened up, I felt a nudge from the Lord to apply and be open to the possibility that he may be moving me to Ben Lippen. I loved the job role I had before coming to Ben Lippen, but I also knew from having my own children attend Ben Lippen that the atmosphere on Ben Lippen’s campus is special. Since my children already attended school here, I knew that I loved the Christian environment. I am excited to have an opportunity to use my training and experience to assist students and families within a Christian environment. I am honored to play a small part in helping all students have access to Christian education.

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