After 40 years of dedication to the profession she loves, Dixie Crook will be ending her teaching career this year at DeKalb County High School, the same place it all began for her in 1972.
As the longest serving teacher currently on the staff at DCHS, Ms Crook has announced her retirement, effective at the close of the school year. "I'm thinking about sitting back for a little while, relaxing, and taking it easy. I love to read. I hope to maybe get out and do some things I haven't been able to do. Maybe spend a little more time with family," she said.
During her four decades at DCHS, Ms. Crook has worked with dozens of teachers, taught hundreds of students, and served under nine principals. "The teachers that I have had the pleasure to work with have just meant so much to me. A lot of faculty and staff have gone through here. Ms Harriet (Cantrell) and I have been friends for a long time and her friendship is among those I treasure the most. Ms (Ina Ruth) Bess and I are a little bit kin, and we always had a big time together.(Ms. Bess retired a few years ago). I appreciate everyone's help throughout the years. There's been a lot of principals I've learned a lot from including Mr. Ernest Ray. I always liked the way he did things. Kathy (Hendrix) has been a Godsend. I have enjoyed serving under her these last seven years. She has worked hard and I think we have all profited from her hard work," said Crook.
In reflecting on her life, Ms. Crook talked about how she quit school as a teenager to start a family but later returned to further her education. It was during this time that she began thinking of becoming a teacher. "I quit school when I was a sophomore and had two children. I came back and finished two years of high school. During that time, I was more focused. In the back of my mind, I had always thought I would like to teach. I had Ms. Ann Puckett as a teacher. She encouraged me. That last summer I worked for Congressman Joe L. Evins and he also encouraged me to pursue my dream. So I went to Tennessee Tech and completed my BS degree.. Then I attended MTSU and completed my Masters in Business Education," said Ms. Crook.
After finishing college, Ms. Crook was hired by the school system and went to work at DCHS in 1972. "Throughout all the years I have taught different subjects but its always been in the business field. When I first started teaching, it was VOE (Vocational Office Education). Then everything changed a bit. Right now the classes that I am teaching are database, e-business, and administrative management. Those are the classes that I am teaching this semester. But everything has always been in business," she said.
Today, Ms. Crook's title is Business Technology/Computer Teacher. She is also one of the local school system's career level III teachers, an accomplishment only few have achieved.
As times have changed and new technologies have developed, Ms. Crook, like many other teachers, have had to adapt. "I started out with a few old electric typewriters. I had three rows in my room and one row had electric typewriters so to try to make it as fair as I could (for all the students), we rotated. The other two rows were manual typewriters. That was all we had at that time," said Ms. Crook.
"After they built this new (vocational) building, they bought all new IBM selectrics and that was the top of the line typewriters at that time. We progressed from those to an electronic typewriter which had a little bit of memory. And then computers came into the picture," she said.
Ms. Crook also enjoyed her club work and beamed with delight anytime one of her students excelled achieving special honors or recognition. "When I first began, the club I was affiliated with was the Office Education Association (OEA). I was fortunate enough to have a lot of students over the years that worked really hard. Several years ago I had the first national officer of any of the clubs here at DCHS, Ella Jane Parkerson Williams. Later our club merged with FBLA and she went on to be an FBLA officer as well," she said.
Whether it was helping organize high school graduations, proms, homecomings, or cheerleading activities, Ms. Crook found everything she did to be a labor of love. " I did graduation for quite a few years. I did the yearbook. I worked with cheerleaders and that was back in the day when I had both squads. I also helped with the proms and homecomings. We saw many a parade go by. I've enjoyed it all," she said.
As her career draws to a close, Ms. Crook said it has been a privilege to teach and to have perhaps made an impression on the lives of her students. " I look back and I see all those students that I had over the years. Its been real rewarding when they come up and say, I remember when we did this, or you taught me how to do that, and I appreciate it. That means a lot when students come up and tell you that. I think in teaching that's one of the most rewarding things is seeing your students succeed. Over the years, there have been quite a few and I have enjoyed every single minute of it," she said.