Po Dickison awarded Teacher of the Year

Dickison reads the script for the second session of the ELA exam in the media center. Juniors had to retake the test at the start of the year after it was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

photo by Sophia Canabal

Dickison reads the script for the second session of the ELA exam in the media center. Juniors had to retake the test at the start of the year after it was canceled last year due to COVID-19.

When news broke on Thursday, Sept. 24 that media specialist Po Dickison won Teacher of the Year, she burst into tears. This was not her first time receiving the award: she also won it in 2005, the first year Hagerty opened. In 2020, however, the hardships Dickison has had to overcome made her second award that much more meaningful. Despite how much has changed, she still remains greatly dedicated to her job.

“Fifteen years later, things have changed, but my heart’s still in it. I love it,” Dickison said.

In a typical school year, Dickison’s responsibilities consist of managing the media center in regards to gathering and distributing both textbooks and library books, organizing student IDs or helping teachers with interactive, online activities. Due to staffing limitations from COVID-19 this year, however, she is now also in charge of school testing.

When told this at the start of the year, Dickison was “stunned.” However, her philosophy is to do the best she can and help those who ask for it, so she took on the job with a headstrong mindset. Despite her inexperience, she hopes to make the most of this new position.

“I’ve never had to plan for state assessments and logistically putting kids in rooms or teachers in rooms for… proctoring,” Dickison said. “One of my goals is to make it a positive experience, for all of you guys who have to come and test.”

Under the mentorship of assistant principal Jesse Walker, Dickison has adjusted to her new role as quickly as possible. She initially found it intimidating, not knowing much at all about the testing processes, but she spent the summer learning the basic concepts of analyzing student data on Skyward, and is now learning on the job as testing season commences with the end of the first nine weeks.

Her hard work has not gone unnoticed by her peers, especially those working alongside her in the media center, like digital learning specialist Lindsey Jackson.

“I can’t think of anyone [else] on campus who isn’t going above and beyond the normal call of duty this year,” Jackson said. “She’s been a very busy lady who always does it all with a smile on her face.”

Jackson coordinates with Dickison to plan media center events for students, schedule testing, as well as training teachers with more technological activities. This is not the extent of Dickison’s work, however: in addition to the media center and her new Testing Coordinator position, she also sponsors Robotics and Future Educators of America (FEA).

She uses her skills in digital platforms and technology to assist the clubs she sponsors. In Robotics, for example, she is able to instruct students learning modeling and programming software despite a virtual barrier.

With all of her other responsibilities, however, Dickison has taken a step back this year and allowed other parents and community members to take over for the time being.

“I have an amazing group of mentors that have been kind of carrying the torch while I get acclimated,” Dickison said.

In FEA, she provides opportunities for students to shadow other educatorsa passion she relates to as someone who has pursued the field her entire life. Despite how much she has to do this year, Dickison still makes sure to plan and organize events with club leadership.

“She engages with all of our club members and is always there at our meetings,” co-president of FEA senior Alex Zwarycz said. “She encourages us to help out and make a difference at our school.”

Dickison’s dedication to her job, and both students and staff, has earned her widespread admiration and respect. Even after 15 years, she is still just as infatuated with what she does as she was on day one.

“You feel really good when you teach someone to do something, when you’ve empowered them to overcome something,” Dickison said. “That’s what keeps me coming back. I love it. I’m content.”