2023 Students of Distinction

Samantha Heim conquered learning disability to achieve in the classroom

Posted on May 12th, 2023 By:

Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.

Student: Samantha Heim

School: Gig Harbor High School

Category: Overcoming Adversity

When she was in the fourth grade, Samantha Heim was diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. She struggled to read and couldn’t comprehend what she read or tell if her handwriting was accurate. Words seemed to move around on the page.

After the diagnosis, she participated in a special tutoring program that helped her writing, reading and spelling skills. She also studied Latin because knowing the Latin roots of many words is an excellent tool for understanding their meaning.

Challenging herself

By the time she got to high school, her confidence had grown and she started taking AP classes.

“I just decided that it was OK to challenge myself,” she said. “At first I was extremely nervous, but I actually earned an A.”

Samantha Heim

She went on to earn A’s in other AP classes, as well. That has taught her that most obstacles can be overcome with determination and hard work.

In addition to doing well with her school work, Samantha has also been a key player on several volleyball teams. She was captain of the Peninsula High varsity team and played in the National Beach Volleyball Tournament in 2022 on a team that’s ranked fifth nationally. She received the Ohana Spirit Award, the Sportsmanship Award from the WIAA AAA State Volleyball Tournament and was named an Athlete of the Month.

Volleyball – especially beach volleyball – has been her favorite thing in school, she said. The chance to play alongside her little sister added to the fun.

Leaving a legacy

COVID presented the biggest challenge, and, because of her dyslexia, it was trickier for her than for some of her classmates. “Covid was a big bump in the road for all of us because we couldn’t be together and it totally disrupted schoolwork. But it also helped make me stronger and able to deal with lots more stuff,” she said.

“Overall, I think the thing I’m most proud of is how I’ve finished – where I am today. When I look at where I landed compared to where I started, I’m pretty proud of the legacy I have.”

Her teachers and coaches agree. Christie Plaksy, assistant club director at the DaKine Volleyball Club said that Samantha “…is one of those athletes that makes a lifelong impact you. When Sam struggles with something, she puts in the work not just to get it, but to master it. She won’t stop until she improves and she constantly inspires her teammates to work hard and dig deep.

“Watching her set and achieve her goals with such focus and dedication – because of her passion not just for herself, but for her teammates and coaches – is a rare and wonderful thing to witness.”

Off to OSU

This fall, Samantha is heading to Oregon State University in Corvallis to study business, looking forward to a career in business or international business, with a focus on marketing. She wants to take advantage of OSU’s student exchange program and study abroad, perhaps in Australia or London, and, although OSU doesn’t have a beach volleyball team, she hopes to find ways to continue playing. And maybe even coach a team someday.

Her advice to kids just going into high school is to “apply yourself. Connect with your teachers and build good relationships with your teachers and other students. And turn in your assignments on time.”

Samantha Heim

Parents: Matt and Shannon Heim

Achievements/Activities: played in National Beach Volleyball Tournament on the team that’s ranked fifth nationally; Ohana Spirit Award; Sportsmanship Award – WIAA AAA State Volleyball Tournament; Athlete of the Month; Editor – Gig Harbor publication and recipient of National Yearbook Excellence Award; varsity volleyball Captain

Favorite teacher: Mrs. Hupper. “I have had the privilege of learning from several teachers with unique teaching styles. But Mrs. Hupper stands out as my favorite. She was my AP Seminar teacher in the 10th grade. As a student that has struggled with dyslexia I was very nervous about taking this class. Mrs. Hupper was not only a teacher but also a mentor and supporter. She had a way of explaining and she offered help and guidance in a way that made sense. Her encouragement and support made a challenging class enjoyable and achievable. She went above and beyond to make sure we understood. She also pushed me to take more challenging classes. Her lessons will be important to me as I begin college, and I’m grateful for her support and encouragement.”

Best thing about GHHS: “The pride that the school holds. And the people. All have a common idea of loving being a Tide.”