Valerie Blair Dixon has a rich history with Georgia Military College. A graduate of the Prep School class of 1999, Valerie is a 7 year club member as well as third generation GMC legacy. Her mother, Dianne Brooks Blair, is a graduate of GMC class of 73, and Valerie’s daughter is the newest student in the brand new elementary school 5th grade class. This proud mother of three reflects on her GMC experience and shares with us a bit about her current career as the Director of St. Stephen’s Day School.
After graduating from GMC, Valerie attended The University of Georgia and completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science in 2003 and her Master’s in Agricultural Leadership in 2004, along with her teaching certificate. Valerie was married in October 2004, after meeting her husband at her best friend and fellow GMC alum Stephanie Smith’s wedding.
She began her professional career at the Central Georgia Council in Macon for the Boy Scouts of America. She was the Oconee District Executive for the surrounding six counties. Valerie worked alongside several GMC connections through the Boy Scouts, and after two years, she transitioned to middle school education. Valerie taught 6th grade science in Jones County when she received the news that she was expecting her oldest daughter, Caroline. After staying home with her firstborn daughter, she accepted a position at GMC as the 8th grade physical science teacher in January 2009. During her time teaching at GMC, the Dixon family added two more children and after Logan, her youngest, was born, Valerie decided to take a break from teaching to be with her three children under the age of five.
After two years at home and substituting at GMC, the position at St. Stephen’s Day School opened up. Valerie shared: “This opening was such a blessing to our family. All of our children are graduates of St. Stephen’s and I love being so close to GMC, where my children will attend. There are so many ties to our school and GMC with the Grant family. Many, many GMC students began their early education at St. Stephen’s. I love our tradition of trick or treating through Usery Hall, the bookstore and Parham Hall and we periodically have groups from GMC come and read to our students and perform skits and songs. Our school is so special to me and I am humbled to be the leader.” St. Stephen’s Day School has preschool classes for 2 and 3 year olds and lottery funded Pre-K for 4 year olds.
“As the director of the school, I wear many hats: maintenance person, grocery shopper, teacher trainer, professional developer, kitchen keeper, I try to be very involved with everything. Having been in a classroom, I know that being a teacher is one of the hardest professions one can work in, the expectations are high and they should be. We want to provide those standards at St. Stephens and because of my experience, I can jump into various. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really wanted to make a difference in the lives of the younger generation,” shared Valerie.
Valerie’s love of her career is apparent as she speaks about the day school with a beautiful grin and how she manages and supports a staff of over twenty. Carol Grant created the program at St. Stephen’s in 1985. Historically, there wasn’t anything at the time like St. Stephen’s that operated as a traditional school in the Milledgeville downtown area.
Reflecting on her years at GMC, Valerie shared with me, “GMC has expectations they place on students from an early age. I remember Major Humphus had a trailer that as an officer I would run into in the morning to shape up my brass and shoes. We went to great lengths to make sure everything was just right. Rising to those expectations showed me how I was to pull my own weight in society and at school. My drive for learning came from the type of school I attended.”
Karen Grimes was one of Valerie’s favorite teachers at GMC. The opportunity to teach alongside her as an adult was a special privilege for Valerie. Mrs. Grimes taught Valerie all about the cotillion program, which teaches 8th grade students etiquette, respect, and common morals ending in a military ball nicknamed the “dining in”. She also mentioned Col. Alton, Mrs. Grant, Mrs. Cawley, Mrs. Bertoli, and Maj. Andy Anderson as teachers who impacted her life for the better. She noted that she remembers them daily as she works with the children of St. Stephen’s and as she mothers her own three children. Valerie recalls going on a Biology based Costa Rica trip with around 12 high schoolers and the basketball coach, Coach Posey. She fondly remembers white water rafting, kayaking, and eating rice and beans with the group’s host family.
The loss of 9th grade student Jill Stewart in 1996, whom Valerie knew from birth, was a difficult time for the GMC family. Over Spring Break, Jill lost her life in a tragic car accident coming back from a youth retreat. Valerie recalls how the school came together to mourn the loss of a fantastic student and friend. She remembers gathering in her basement with fellow classmates a few days after the accident as Col. Seagraves led students in prayer and grief counseling. When Valerie was teaching at GMC, Susan, Jill’s mother, came to give books to the students and she was honored to hand those out to students with her.
Reflecting on her current career, Valerie said, “I love walking outside St. Stephens and seeing this gem of the GMC campus right outside our door. Especially in the fall when the leaves are changing and the morning sun is rising. It makes me so happy to have the view of GMC every day in my life. I’m so appreciative of all the hard work that the past and current administration has done and continues to do in order to make GMC the special place that it is.”
An exciting event for Valerie’s family happened this fall when their oldest daughter, Caroline, began her GMC adventure as a member of GMC Prep’s5th grade class. Caroline has asked many questions about what to expect at her new school, and Valerie has proudly shared about GMC and her love for the school to her daughter. The GMC elementary school 4th and 5th grades are self-contained with four teachers inside the Old Capitol Building for the current school year, with expectations to move into the renovated Jenkins Hall for the next school year, with the addition of a third grade class.
Valerie is the wife to Coby of 14 years and mother to three children, Caroline, Madelyn, and Logan. The family enjoys days at the lake, beekeeping, homesteading projects, traveling, and are active members at Lakeside Baptist Church.