Tyler’s teacher for the 3rd and 4th grades was a brilliant educator by the name of Sally Dixon, PhD.
She was the kind of teacher that really loves kids. Individually and collectively. She made a difference not only in Tyler’s life, but in our family’s as well.
A little background here.
Tyler struggled a bit in 1st grade. Really good teacher. Bad match for Tyler. Tyler was not speedy. He would come home with a lot of work he didn’t finish during the day that he would have to do with his homework each day. He was a perfectionist. His mind wandered. He wasn’t keeping up. He was frustrated. I was frustrated. There were a lot of long afternoons. Teacher conferences were not reassuring.
I had settled in my mind that he just wasn’t going to be the kind of student that Justin was. Everything came so easily for Justin. I literally cried when Tyler’s first standardized tests came back and showed that he was actually quite gifted. I had been fooled. I hadn’t trusted in my own child and I had many regrets.
2nd grade was much better. Different style of teacher and a much better fit. Progress was made and we were all much happier.
But then he had Sally Dixon for the next 2 years.
Sally understood Tyler. She taught me a new way to look at teaching him. One size does not fit all.
Snippet from a Teacher’s Conference:
Dr. Dixon: Tyler goes somewhere in his mind at times. I can tell he’s just not with the rest of us.
Me: (apologetically) I know! We’re working on it!
Dr. Dixon: Oh no! He’s building rockets or inventing a new energy source or pondering life’s mysteries in there. I don’t want to get in the way of that!
Teacher’s Conference the next year:
Dr. Dixon: Something’s up with Tyler. Is everything alright at home? Any relationship issues?
Jeff and I look at each other. We’re thinking about the question but unsure whether or not we should be offended. (She has a very direct way about her.) Then we think of something we’ve been semi-wondering/worrying about. I say “semi” because we weren’t sure if it was ACTUALLY a problem or not.
Justin (oldest) had his own room at this point. Tyler and Bryce (youngest) were sharing a room. Bryce was in Kindergarten and randomly decided that he wanted to sleep in Justin’s room. So he made himself a little bed of blankets in the corner of Justin’s room and slept there. We thought it was funny and cute. But then one night turned into two turned into a week, and before we knew it that seemed to be Bryce’s permanent bed.
After the conversation with Dr. Dixon we went home and we resolved to move all of the beds into one room. Everyone would sleep together. Apparently Tyler had been feeling badly about being left alone and making that change changed everything.
Those two years were a turning point for Tyler. He found his confidence and his stride. He never looked back. I give Sally full credit.
Some may say that Sally was intuitive or perceptive. To my way of thinking, she listened to the Spirit and the “still, small voice” and I know that she was a tender mercy in our lives for which I will be forever grateful.
About the last quarter of Tyler’s 4th grade year, she had to leave due to a recurrence of cancer. She never returned to full time teaching.
We have been blessed to call her a friend and we kept in touch through the years. She taught some after school enrichment classes when she was feeling up to it, and she traveled as much as possible. She was also a great humanitarian and contributed her considerable talents to many worthwhile organizations.
In 2011, she came to see her last class graduate from high school. We always thought we were her favorite, but now I strongly suspect everyone thought they were her favorite. That’s just how she was.
Sally passed away on August 16th at age 74 and today is her Celebration of Life. I add this small, personal eulogy to the others that will be shared. The world is diminished without her in it.