To the naked eye, there are what seems like hundreds of inconsequential knickknacks strewn across his classroom- eagle trophies, student art, pictures of smiling students with diplomas in hand; however, they are all important relics of activities past- testaments to the very involved, zealous life of Dwayne Dixon.
From sponsoring the CCHS chapter of the National Honor Society (NHS) to owning a bagel shop, it seems as if there is nothing that this U.S. History teacher can’t take on.
“It’s been very challenging at times to juggle all these things, but because of my passion for all of them I make it work,” Dixon said.
His passion for U.S. History, in particular, was something that blossomed from an early age.
“For some strange reason, as someone who is not from this country, I was always interested in U.S. History,” Dixon said. “I’ve always been interested in how this country functioned because, as an immigrant…it was something that was an example of how every country should run- whether it was accurate or not.”
As a Jamaican immigrant coming to America at 11 years old, the United States had been this elusive Eden, as it stands as a perceived safe haven for many in less affluent countries, until he was awoken by the harsh realities of American society.
“I came to the United States and realized that poverty was real. I came to the United States and realized that racism, for the first time, was real,” Dixon said.
“It’s been very challenging at times to juggle all these things, but because of my passion for all of them I make it work.”
Yet, he was always thankful to be here and continues to hold the United States in the highest regard.
“There were a lot of new things that I experienced as a kid in the United States but still I always felt very lucky to be… [here] as I had friends in Jamaica who couldn’t get here,” Dixon said. “No matter how negative things were, I was always optimistic about my future here and appreciative of the United States.”
With his knowledge of the United States and its opportunities, Dixon pondered the question of what to devote his life to.
“I’ve always wanted to help people in some way, shape or form so my initial thought was law enforcement but, I wasn’t a U.S. citizen so that option was kind of taken away from me,” Dixon said.
At first, he thought of working at a juvenile detention center, where he could aid children who were struggling with their future. However, after recalling the teachings of a very influential high school teacher, Maywin Stewart, following in her footsteps became his goal.
“That one teacher motivated me and impacted my life so much that I realized that, as a teacher, I could probably impact kids earlier- before they get to the juvenile detention center,” Dixon said.
“I’ve always wanted to help people in some way, shape or form.”
When deciding on which subject to teach, Dixon had absolutely no problem choosing as he had always been fascinated by U.S. history. With this path in mind, Dixon began to craft a life for himself with his wife and middle school sweetheart, Casey Dixon, and settled upon her running their bagel shop and him pursuing teaching at CCHS.
“My wife is my best friend, my partner and, without her, I would not be successful,” Dixon said.
Having a secure support system enabled Dixon to become more involved in the CCHS community. First, it began by coaching football and, when the season ended, students approached him with another opportunity- sponsoring the school’s NHS chapter.
“I realized that I probably wanted NHS more than NHS needed me so NHS became one of my passions,” Dixon said.
The National Honor Society is a club that functions on the principles of service, scholarship, leadership and character, ideals that strongly correlate with Dixon’s own life experiences.
“I think that part of the reason I’m into service is because I know how much it can benefit [people] because I came from that perspective…,” Dixon said.“I think that some of us have excesses and why not share the excesses that we have. I think it’s understanding that sometimes some people have it hard and that some of us are blessed and, if we can, we should help.”
Therefore, the decision to leave NHS was all the more arduous considering his immense love for the values of the organization.
“My wife is my best friend, my partner and, without her, I would not be successful.”
“The decision to leave to go back to school was a complicated and very difficult… [one] that I have been thinking about for quite a few years now,” Dixon said. “The thing that’s held me back is the fact that I enjoy teaching, NHS and everything I’m doing right now… [so] there really wasn’t a reason for me to step out of my comfort zone.”
However, for the past decade, Dixon had been approached by many who believed that he would make a great administrator, but it wasn’t until someone very influential in his life suggested the idea once again.
“[Having] the support of my principal, Ms. Doll, and so many people from my department to encourage me and then the opportunity … [coming] along- the right opportunity at the right time- enabled me to take this giant leap,” Dixon said. “I hope that as an administrator, I’ll be able to … maybe reach more kids in ways [that] I can’t as a teacher in the classroom.”
This large step is the product of an undying want to help the community, a character trait that is also apparent in his creation of a new organization at CCHS.
“This group is to target kids who are struggling and need mentoring,” Dixon said. “Sometimes… [the problem] is not always academic, so this tutoring-mentoring group is supposed… [to offer] workshops to help kids who are going through challenging points in their lives.”
The idea for the service blossomed from Dixon’s analysis of his end-of-course exams as he noticed that CCHS minorities, particularly African-Americans, were scoring well below other groups. If created, the group will offer seminars on everything from how to communicate with teachers to how to take notes.
“If I can get one extra kid to graduate high school because of this, then I’m excited.”
“If I can get one extra kid to graduate high school because of this, then I’m excited,” Dixon said.
This supportive, encouraging persona is one that has become a well-known staple within the CCHS community. However, this was not the case when he first began teaching.
“I was so worried about not having classroom management and was so strict that… [kids] wouldn’t talk to me,” Dixon said. “So I made a conscious effort to say I want discipline… [but also a comfortable environment] and once I… [did] that, everything changed- kids started coming to me, asking questions… and even… [asking for] recommendation letters.
Thus, his venerated status was conceived and now his students, new and old, revere him as one of the best teachers they have ever had.
“Mr. Dixon is one of the brightest, [most] caring and enthusiastic teachers I’ve had,” CCHS alumna Kia Del Solar said. “When comparing Mr. Dixon’s lectures to my college professors (who often lack interest in the subject), it is clear that he genuinely cares about his students and the topic he teaches.”
Due to his commitment to student success and the benefits of learning U.S. history, Dixon often utilizes a rigorous teaching strategy.
“I can be very intense and … [my students] know I have very high expectations [of them] and can become frustrated because I hold them to it,” Dixon said.
“It is clear that he genuinely cares about his students and the topic he teaches.”
Yet, most of Dixon’s students could not have imagined their high school experience without him.
“Mr. Dixon serves as an inspiration for many students, including myself,” junior David Lee said. “There is a reason why we, the student body, call him ‘daddy Dixon,’ as he is like a dad to us in that he has the wisdom to be strict when he has to be strict and have fun when it is time to have fun.”
And that wise, father-like mentality has had a lasting effect on many of the graduating seniors as they continue on in their lives.
“Mr. Dixon has been one of my greatest role models,” senior John Lystad said. “His wisdom taught me much more than what was covered in his lessons and he always pushed me to give my all towards everything I do… I’ll never forget what I learned from Mr. Dixon and I’ll carry it with me until the day I die.”
Photo by Sabrine Brismeur