By Josh Beavers
Minden High’s John Dillon has received an honor never awarded to a teacher.
Dillon was named the Jimmy D. Long, Sr., Louisiana Scholars’ College Distinguished Alumnus of 2022 during halftime of last weekend’s homecoming game at Northwestern State University.
“This is a service award, and because of that, I have a lot of different emotions about it,” Dillon said. “To begin, I’m entirely humbled to be the first teacher to receive this award. But I must admit, I think a good teacher ought to be considered for service just as honorably as a humanitarian, a peace officer, a politician, or a soldier.”
Dillon is a 1997 graduate of the Scholars’ College and has been an English teacher at Minden High School since 2006.
“Dillon’s breadth of interest and depth of knowledge across his distinguished career exemplify what it means to be a Scholar,” the university said in a statement.
“Teaching as a career is a personal choice and devotion to service,” Dillon said. “So, while I have the sincerest thanks to the Louisiana Scholars’ College, my alma mater, for giving me the award, I also have to say that good teachers deserve such recognition, and I hope that other colleges and universities will follow suit.”
Dillon’s teaching career is not the only reason he was nominated and selected.
He is president of the Louisiana Ornithological Society, a long-time member of the Louisiana Bird Records Committee, a records reviewer for Cornell University’s eBird.org, which is the largest online database of bird observations, a board member of the Briarwood Caroline Dormon Nature Preserve, the founder and co-sponsor of the Minden High School Nature Club, the co-founder of the MHS Teen Mental Health First Aid club, a very active public speaker about birds and native plants, and a co-author of mental health grants across nearly a dozen parishes.
“But at everything I do, service and devotion to education is at the core,” he said.
Dillon’s philosophy on education has two aspects. As an educator, he believes that every educator’s teaching philosophy should be to teach every student with the energy and expectations you would have for your own child’s education.
“If I’m not teaching every kid like I’d want my own kid to be taught, I need to walk out the door and never come back,” he said. “I ask every new teacher I meet, ‘Would you work hard for someone you don’t respect or for someone you don’t like?’ When they give an emphatic, ‘No!,’ I say, ‘Then neither will your students.’”
Dillon said teachers who are unliked by their students are not effective teachers.
“They will only work for you if they like you,” he said. “And the best way to do that is to be sincere with them just like you would with your own kids.”
His philosophy on education itself is a bit more nuanced.
“Education is a lot like how I was just explaining poetry to my honors freshmen: Can you understand it? And can you relate to it? If a community can’t understand the need for education, they will never relate to it,” he said. “But it is the schools’ responsibility to make sure the community they serve understands the education they provide. If a school does a solid job of explaining the education it offers, any community should see the relevance of how important an educated populace is.”
As for what he enjoys most about his job, he said that was easy to answer.
“The kids,” he said. “Non-teachers have told me the same thing for years: oh, man, I could never do your job because I couldn’t stand to be around those kids every day. But the kids are the best part of my day. If I’m going to get disappointed at my job, it’s almost certainly because of an adult and seldom because of a kid. I expect them to be kids. And I expect adults to be adults. Only one of these expectations leads to disappointment.”