Lauded department chair reflects on coming retirement

Shannon Freese

Mary Dix retires after this year. She is the language arts department chair. Photo by Halley Hollis

A teacher that’s taught for two decades would have always wanted to be a teacher, right?
Wrong.
For 29-year veteran Mary Dix, she began teaching only out of necessity and not because of interest. Although she had always been attracted to the works of literature, she wanted to take her love into producing writing rather than teaching it.
“I wish I could say that it was my initial career of choice, but that isn’t true,” said Dix, who has taught at RBHS for 25 years. “I was an English major because I loved poetry and English literature, I would often dream of one day being an editor for a large publication in New York City or publishing my own work.”
Dix had the chance to live the life of a character in a romance novel, for she sacrificed her early dreams in favor of that special someone when she met and fell in love.
“I married this fellow who had flunked out of school twice and someone needed to have a career between us so he could do it right the third time,” Dix said. “I got my teaching degree to support us. It was a sort of passion that developed along the way.”
Throughout the years, Dix, who is retiring as the head of the English department here, has taught nearly all of the English classes offered at Rock Bridge except for one – African American Experience. Retiring as an AP English Literature teacher this year, writers like Walt Whitman inspire her, but it’s working alongside her co-workers that keeps her going.
“In my real world, people like Debra Perry and David Egan and David Graham,” Dix said. “People who put their hearts and souls into their jobs” are who keep my passion for teaching alive.
But while Dix enjoys the company of her co-workers, she said what has kept her coming to class for nearly three decades is for the people she teaches. More than anything, she loves the students.
“Kids. Kids are absolutely the funniest and most entertaining people that you could surround yourself with,” Dix said. “Every day is different; you don’t know what to expect. It’s always entertaining, always enlightening, and some days it’s meaningful, as well.”
Although Dix’s writing has yet to make it to a publishing house, her students say the energy she brings into the classroom every day speaks volumes.
“I don’t know if Dix realizes how great she really is,” senior Kelsey Garnatz, who is taking Dix’s Advanced Placement Literature class this year, said. “She’s the best English teacher I’ve ever had, hands down. It’s hard to imagine her doing anything else because she fits in where she is right now. I don’t remember a class where I didn’t love what she was doing. And I am so jealous that she’s traveling to South America; that just adds to how awesome she is.”
As her final day at RBHS comes closer, Dix knows now that the teaching profession was her niche.

I’ll miss “the kids, the warm and nurturing staff,” Dix said. “There are even certain times where I think I might miss grading papers, but those days are getting more infrequent. I’m getting paid to be around and hangout with kids. I’ve got my dream job right here.”
By Shannon Freese
additional reporting by Alex Burnam