George Dix to Retire After 38 Years at Phillips Academy, 50 Years of Teaching

George Dix, Instructor in Spanish, will retire at the end of this academic year after 38 years of teaching French and Spanish at Phillips Academy. “To me it’s good timing because I figured on retiring in a few more years. As the mafia says, ‘it was an offer I couldn’t refuse,’” he said. Dix said, “I’m looking forward to not having a schedule, not being controlled by a schedule.” He is not ready to let go of his passion for his languages or teaching once he leaves Andover. “I might teach part time. I’ve had some offers at colleges and schools in the area,” he said. Dix is also looking to use his mastery of French and Spanish in different ways. “I want to be a tour guide for foreigners. They have a need for people here who can speak different languages,” he said. “I’ll be living not too far from Andover, since my wife will continue working in Massachusetts,” Dix said. “It’s close to the ocean, and it’s close to colleagues whom I’ll miss.” “I’m never bored. Not many things are boring, only people who let themselves be bored,” he said. Dix said, “[When I retire this year], I will have done a half century of teaching, fifty years.” He garnered 12 years of teaching experience before coming to Andover, mostly from a few colleges. “Of course I’d heard of Andover, and I had friends here. The size of Andover made the transition not too radical [from colleges], and it was an age group that I liked,” he said. Dix learned more about high school students when he began teaching. “[At college], I was teaching French, using a book used at Harvard,” he said. When I came here, I thought that I could help myself out by using the same book.” I thought ‘Seniors, at PA, must be pretty sophisticated.’” But as his students struggled with the text, he learned a valuable lesson. “It was a ‘Woah!’ moment. Intellectually here, students are quite capable. But it’s very important to teach beyond the text. It’s more personal in high school than colleges.” Though Dix was hired to teach French at Andover, he soon began teaching Spanish as well before he eventually began teaching primarily Spanish. “When I came here, the enrollment for French was twice that of Spanish. Now it is nearly the reverse,” he said. During his many decades at Andover, Dix has played various roles on campus as a teacher and an advisor. Dix has also worked with the debate team. But Dix’s passion has always been teaching. “One of the things I’ve enjoyed here is marrying language study and theatre. To me, studying a language is very akin to learning theatre. Your command of a language is like having a script,” he said. “Speaking a language is like playing a role.” Dix applies this concept to every class that he teaches. “I have students pull the language off the page and put it into context. Language acquisition is very different from learning about a language.” Dix’s interest in teaching began when he was in school. He is a New Jersey-native and attended the Lawrenceville School. “I was very influenced [by being taught] at a boarding school,” he said. Dix attended Brown University, majoring in French and minoring in Spanish. At 21, he received a teaching position at the Hun School in Princeton. Dix was a very young teacher and often confused as a student. “Once a few parents yelled from their car ‘hey kid!’ asking for directions,” he said. In 1972, he sent job applications to Phillips Academy and Phillips Exeter Academy. “[They were] big enough, sophisticated enough and held high standards,” he said of the schools. He added, “1972 was when co-education was coming about. I was a bit of a maverick.” “Change in an institution such as this doesn’t come over night, but it was fun to be here [during the years of transition],” he continued. After fifty years of teaching foreign language, Dix is ready to rest. “The timing is good. I’ve had a good run,” he said.