East County's Connie Dixon had been hoping to be a part of the administrative team at Gene Witt Elementary School for the past two decades.
When she applied to be an assistant principal at Gene Witt 20 years ago, she fell in love with the school.
“Witt has been my heart school,” Dixon said. “When you walk in, it has that family feeling, even back then. It is a collaborative family of educators who love children. I want to be somewhere that feels like a family. I want to be able to engage with extended family, which (is what) I call our parents.”
Although Dixon wasn’t hired 20 years ago, Myra Russell, the Gene Witt principal at the time and one of Dixon’s heroes, gave her encouraging words.
Twenty years later, Dixon has been named the new principal of Gene Witt Elementary School, replacing David Marshall, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
"I am joining a well-oiled machine," Dixon said after meeting Gene Witt's teachers and staff April 22. “It doesn't need fixing. My job is to go over there and to bring the community and school together tighter than it already is, if that is even possible."
Dixon said she her meeting with Gene Witt's teachers and staff was "warm and authentic."
The current principal at Annie Lucy Williams Elementary School in Parrish, she started there in 2014.
Dixon said it’s time for her to move to a new school.
“My magic wand is just about running dry,” Dixon said. “I think a new leader coming in with some more spark could take this most amazing school to its vision statement. Williams Elementary is meant to be one of the top 100 schools in the state of Florida meeting the academic, social and emotional needs of all students to best prepare them for their future. I’m excited for the next leader here at Williams to do that.”
Dixon uses the adventures she’s had in life to connect with her students and staff members.
“When you empower staff and you let your staff know who you really are, then they’re free to share who they really are with students,” Dixon said. “It’s just a matter of making connections with students. There’s always at least one way to make a connection because kids want to know you care, and kids can sniff out someone who’s inauthentic faster than anything.”
She’s hiked Mount Vesuvius, skydived from 13,500 feet, and scuba dived off the coast of Mexico.
Dixon spends at least six weekends traveling the southeastern part of the country showing horses in competitions. She has loved horses since she was 18 months old as riding and caring for them was a family activity.
She had taken time off from riding, but five years ago her husband, Jack, convinced her to buy a horse again because she was working 80 hours a week.
Dixon competes with Daelan, her horse, in at least six competitions each year.
“Even if you don’t win a ribbon, you’re winning because you’re learning,” Dixon said. “There’s still so much to learn."
Dixon said she knows some students at Gene Witt Elementary School who ride horses, so she can’t wait to talk about horses with them.
“If I can connect to a child in some way and let them know, ‘Hey, you want to jump horses someday, look Ms. Dixon is still doing this,’” Dixon said. “You can do anything you want. There’s that saying that you can grow up and do anything you want, and you really can.”
Dixon said she feels she’s a teacher’s principal because she spent 23 of her 33 years as a teacher before going into administration.
“I went on a lot of interviews 20 years ago, and it was not 'no,' it was just 'not yet,'” Dixon said. “I decided when I did become a principal, I was going to work hard for children and be as incredible as I could be for them. I started pondering about the word incredible. The only way to be incredible is to be credible, and so spending 23 years in the classroom allowed me to build credibility.”