Mindy Dickerson is creating a student-centered culture that creates successful, empowered young adults through creative teaching methods at Paetow High School.
KATY MAGAZINE | May 2018
By Ashley Lancaster
Opening photo by Tiffany Lanza
The Panther's fearless leader and the 2017 - 2018 Secondary Principal of the Year, Mindy Dickerson, was chosen to found Katy ISD's eighth comprehensive high school (a $157 million dollar bond project) after a 19-year career in education, with 17 of them right here in Katy. Find out how she and her staff cultivate an atmosphere of openness, academic success, and kindness in their student body.
Hooked on Teaching Dickerson's love for education and passion for teaching began when she was 7 years old, when her dad brought home an overhead projector, and let her play around with it. As a young adult, she attended Texas A&M University, where she majored in journalism received her M.Ed. Educational Leadership from the University of Houston.
She spent two years as a sixth grade reading/language arts teacher and cheer coach in Alief ISD before moving to Katy. Since August 2001, she has served as a teacher at Williams and Schmalz Elementary, as an Assistant Principal at Rhoads Elementary, and principal at Cimarron Elementary, Beckendorff Junior High, and now, leads the Paetow Panthers.
OPEN DOOR POLICY On any given day, Dickerson can be found in the hallways, lunchroom, and attending school activities, interacting with her teachers and students. "I lead a Student Leadership Council and have an open door policy for students and staff alike," she says. Dickerson believes in letting students know that their voices are heard, and makes sure teachers not only deliver content, but really connect with their charges.
"We equip our staff with the tools they need not only to teach their content, but to reach kids where they are, believe in them, and cultivate and sustain our culture of caring," she says.
In order to create such a unique and motivating environment, Dickerson and staff have implemented a "Four Square" system, created by the students themselves, to get insight on how the teens at Paetow are perceiving their high school experience. Each square contains a prompt, and multiple choices for them to circle in order to give feedback to the school leadership.
The goal of these "open door" practices, is to help every single student have a plan when they graduate - whether it's college, a career, or a military path. "We set aside time during the day for students to find out their learning styles, to study, and to attend tutorials.We talk about what’s next, and we do that with our freshmen and sophomores.They need to see what they might like to do as well as what they know they don’t want to do," Dickerson explains.
a family affair When she's not blazing a new trail in high school education, Dickerson love hanging out with her twin daughters, students at feeder school Bethke Elementary, and her husband Steve, who is a teacher and coach at the adjoining Stockdick Junior High campus. Safe to say, Panther pride is running in their veins.
REWARDS OF THE JOB
Dickerson says that the biggest challenge she faces, at school and at home, is time. With so much to do and so many hats to wear, it can get hectic. But she and Steve still carve out time for family game nights, movie nights, and taking the occasional trip to Rockport.
When asked what she feels is the most rewarding aspect of her career, Dickerson responds, "My reward is seeing the culture I envisioned come to fruition this year. I had a student tell me he is a different kid this year because he feels that we believe in him and he now believes in himself. That is what school is about."