Story by Natalie Travis – Multimedia Journalist
David Dickerson, an English and world literature professor, expounds on his journey as an educator as well as his personal interests and favorites.
Q: Did you work at a college before teaching at TJC?
A: I got my master’s degree at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches and I started teaching there part time. I was also teaching part time at Panola College at the same time. Then we moved back here to Tyler, and I was working for a family business and teaching part time at TJC. Did that for a few years and then moved away and when we came back, I worked for a nonprofit for a bit.
Q: What made you decide to come teach at TJC?
A: I came to see if I could get night work. I had actually applied at Starbucks too, so I could work on the weekends and have some extra income. There was a full-time opening so whenever I applied, the department chair asked if I wanted to be considered for it. I went to TJC and whenever I left here, my dream was to get my Ph.D and come back here. So it was always in the back of my head.
Q: Do you think being a teacher at a junior college you get to see a little bit of the growth you saw as a high school teacher?
A: The semesters are four months long so you don’t get as deep a relationship with every student, but it took me that year to kind of catch up and go, “oh yeah” you just have to kind of have your eyes open. You get people that see something they’ve never seen or begin to figure out their style. Maybe the people that weren’t great students before become better students; you just have to dig for it a little differently.
Q: When you were growing up, were you thinking about a job, like being a teacher, with a family in mind?
A: I wasn’t. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was always like “OK, whatever.” I wouldn’t have chosen to be a teacher when I was a kid; I probably wanted to be an actor. And then I came here as a student and got to do a little theater and really loved it, but I knew I wasn’t a leading man type. The more English I took, the more I loved getting into texts and then talking about it. TJC is when I fell in love with learning.
Q: What is one of your favorite books you have read?
A: As a reader, I’ve always loved Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s work. His work is in little short chunks so I could read it while I was doing other things, so I would read while I was eating lunch at TJC as a student. When I got done reading “Slaughterhouse-Five,” I remember feeling numb, like I had just had some kind of crazy experience, so that’s an addictive feeling for me. As a teacher, anything that the students get into and really want to talk about.
Q: What is something fun or interesting about you that not many people know?
A: I keep bees, so that’s a weird kind of out-of-the-blue sort of thing. I didn’t stick with theater while I was a student, but I am now a producer on the board at the Civic Theater, so that is a huge part of what I do when I’m not hanging out with my kids.
Q: Do you have a favorite production that you have been in?
A: Yeah! I have done some really neat ones, but one of the last ones that I did that was a big thing was “Mamma Mia!.” Somebody got the word out that they needed old guys, so I went in and I got cast as Harry, who is played by Colin Firth in the movie.
Q: If you could have lunch with someone dead or alive, who would it be and why?
A: You’ve got to be careful meeting your heroes because you could sometimes find that they are not the person you thought they were. It would be amazing to have somebody like Jesus or Gandhi, somebody who is just essence, at least that’s how I understand them. But I just wouldn’t know what to say.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like students to know?
A: I would want students to know the best thing that I think about college is that it’s all on you. You can be and make it whatever you want it to be. It’s a time to find out what you value and where you want to go as opposed to maybe doing what your parents want you to do. This is a place where you can experience different things in a cost effective way, at least here at least. And this is why I love teaching college, being around young people that are discovering what they want and learning that they can get what they want if they’re willing to try for it.