Jamie Dill still laughs about his first day as a teacher at Mantachie Elementary School.

Miss Betty Enoch saw him walking down the sidewalk and said, “What are you doing here?” The two had worked together at Itawamba Manufacturing.

“I just said, ‘Well I’m here to teach,’” he said.

Even though Dill has worked at a variety of places – Tecumseh, Blue Bell and maintenance at Itawamba Community College – he has always known his passion was teaching. The teacher-turned-principal has never been afraid of hard work. He worked those jobs while pursuing his degree in education.

“My dad always told us, you don’t get something for nothing,” Dill said. “So I worked hard and pursued what I was passionate about.”

With more than three decades under his belt, Dill has decided the time is right to move on. His teaching career has been in Itawamba for the most part, but in his early days he worked at Red Water Elementary School on the Choctaw Indian Reservation near Kosciusko and in the Aberdeen School District.

“I was at Red Water in the 1989-1990 school year. My experience there was wonderful,” he said. “I did a science project about molecules with the kindergarten class, and they won their little competition. They were so excited, but as a new teacher it was even more exciting for me.”

Dill also took his young students on an Amtrak train to the capital building in Jackson during Christmas that year. The ornaments they handcrafted and sent before the trip were hanging on the capital Christmas tree when we arrived. He said the children just couldn’t believe it when they saw them hanging there.

His teaching path then led him to Aberdeen. While there he decided to take his students on a trip to the Indian reservation where he had previously taught. The experience unveiled to the students a different lifestyle and culture than they had been used too.

“It was like turning on a light bulb for both groups of students,” Dill said. “It’s times like those that really make teaching a wonderful thing.”

He then made his way back to familiar ground in Itawamba County. He spent a short time teaching at Tremont Attendance Center before coming home to Mantachie. He spent six years teaching and has served as principal for the last 14 years.

One of his favorite times of the year is the beginning of school.

“I always tell the teachers, it’s just like Christmas and each student is a gift,” he said.

Dill has nothing but praise for the teachers and administration he has worked with during his tenure at Mantachie.

“I have worked with a lot of good people and the folks at the central office have been very supportive,” he said. “I will miss all of them, but I am looking forward to the unknown.”

Dill finished by saying his journey has been a good one. It’s the lifelong friendships he’s made along the way that will always be with him.

“I’m thankful that someone gave me a chance,” he said. “Someone made a difference for me and making a difference is what it’s all about.”

Dill will be honored with a retirement reception this Thursday, June 6, from 5-7 p.m. in the Mantachie Elementary School Cafeteria. The public is invited to attend.

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