The Kitchen is Closed: Dickey retiring, but not stopping

Allison Lvovich, Staff Writer

After nearly three decades of filling school hallways with the smells of fresh cooked food, student bellies with nutritious snacks, and campuses across DeKalb with the sound of her laughter, Carrie Dickey, Chamblee’s teacher for Family and Consumer Science classes, is saying goodbye to teaching Chamblee Charter High School. She has been a fixture here for 11 years, but her history with teaching began well before Chamblee.

“I’ve been teaching for a total of 26 years; one year in Mississippi and 25 years here in DeKalb County,” said Dickey.

Before teaching, Dickey worked for the nutritional department, not straying away from her wishes to work in something related to food.

“I worked at USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) for two and a half years,” said Dickey recently. “I stayed in St. Louis until my husband at that time got a position here in Georgia, so that is why I came back to Georgia for a job in Atlanta public schools.”

Undoubtedly, teaching can be one of the most difficult jobs. For Ms. Dickey, the children were what made it completely worthwhile.

“My caringness and love for children was what made me want to become a teacher,” said Dickey. “When I was working for USDA, I started with caring for little ones, so it wasn’t as difficult to get my certification in early childhood education.”

Another motivation for her to become a teacher involves a negative trait that most kids simply don’t have.

“One thing about kids is that they don’t hold grudges; that’s also what motivated me to get my certification,” said Dickey.

When it comes to teaching high schoolers though, it is not always the case that students don’t hold grudges, which made Dickey hesitate when offered a high school teaching job. After teaching elementary school children, she worked at a middle school before being offered her first high school position.

“When I first came to DeKalb County, I worked at Sequoia Middle School for eight years; the school system knew I was certified to teach language arts, social studies, and science in middle school,” said Dickey. “I didn’t mind teaching science in particular, but the CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education) supervisors kept telling me that they wanted to keep me in Family and Consumer Sciences, so I had to leave the middle school, which was painful.”

After leaving Sequoia Middle School to teach in Family and Consumer Sciences, Dickey worked at Columbia High School in Decatur for a year. For some time, she hesitated accepting the position because she loved working with younger children.

“It was definitely a challenge since I was so used to middle school students,” said Dickey. “At first, I really wanted to go back to teaching in an elementary school. I had an offer, but it would’ve taken too long.”

After Columbia, Dickey worked at Avondale High School for five years, then proceeded to work up to an offer from Chamblee Charter High School.

“After working [at Avondale High School], I got more offers but I waited until the last minute,” said Dickey. “That was a great choice because one day, I got a call from Human Resources, and they told me that I was placed at Chamblee Charter High School.”

Many adults simply work until they are completely burnt out, but not Ms. Dickey. She planned out every aspect of her retirement in 2016.

“[Fellow teacher] Ms. Dickinson thought I was going to change my mind about retiring, but I have had my goals written down for years,” said Dickey. “I feel that if I stay here any longer, I will not be able to fulfill all of my goals.”

It is very common for adults to retire when they feel ready, but Ms. Dickey felt that she could only achieve her life’s goals if everything was planned out years in advance.

“As for being mentally ready to retire, everyone says once you know, then you know, but I started visualizing my life and doing other things with my life besides getting up to teach high school everyday,” said Dickey.

She loved teaching, but she planned for numerous other activities to keep her busy as well in retirement.

“I know that my purpose is to do other things as well, like volunteering at the homeless shelter and helping prepare food for others,” said Dickey. “I felt like it was almost selfish for me to continue living life the way I was, I knew that I wasn’t doing everything I had the potential to do.”

In addition to volunteering, Dickey wants to work multiple part time jobs in order to avoid “sitting around.” For example, working part time at Publix to decorate cakes was on the top of her bucket list. She also wanted to walk back into her past by working at an elementary school again.

“Only part-time,” said Dickey with a smile.

Aside from teaching and decorating cakes, she quietly dove into the business world as well.

“I plan to continue expanding business ventures with my son as well,” said Dickey. “As for the business, my son is very much always on the market and I am what you call a ‘silent person’.”

After retiring, Dickey has decided she will dig further into her past and continue writing a book she started two decades ago.

“I really enjoy journaling every day,” said Dickey. “I also started a book about 20 years ago; the book is fictitious but it was somewhat true about growing up in rural Mississippi.”

In addition to her constant drive to fulfill goals and achievements, Ms. Dickey’s favorite part of teaching could also be a life lesson for all.

“Being able to challenge students was my favorite part of being a teacher,” said Dickey. “I am also learning along with the students, which is just as important. Being able to challenge students also continues to open the door both ways, as I am also challenged back; I consider myself a life-long learner.”

A few of her students over the last few years wanted to share something positive about Ms. Dickey and her classes.

“I’ve been taking Ms. Dickey’s class for 3 years now and I have to say it was usually the highlight of my day,” said Kaylee Powell (’22). “She almost never got upset with us and was very understanding when we had off-days. I also loved it when she would bake snacks for us after a test.”

A common theme over students’ statements was how much effort she put into her students.

“She was always willing to work with students and was very nice and considerate,” said Zac Rodgers (’21).

Lizzie Whatley (’22) agreed, putting emphasis on the fact that Ms. Dickey’s class was like no other.

“She cares a lot about her students and her class was fun and different from other classes because we were able to cook and bake and such,” said Whatley.

For Dickey, retirement is no excuse for laziness, as COVID already took enough time away from her.

“I have a plethora of things I want to do, I will not have time to sit around,” said Dickey. “The pandemic really took a heavy toll on me, we were more or less confined for months.”

Even though her journey with Chamblee is over, she wants people to know that her story is far from over.

“Now it’s time for me to fulfill my life’s goals,” said Dickey. “It’s not over for Carrie Dickey.”

[A note from the author]

On a personal note, I remember walking into Ms. Dickey’s Food, Nutrition, and Wellness class my freshman year. Before I even met her, I signed up for the class because it seemed to be the only practical class available, and that was something extremely important to me. On the very first day, she was probably the most welcoming teacher I had. Her class wasn’t about conditioning virtually useless information to pass a test, it was always practical and useful knowledge that we can use in our everyday lives.

She never failed to make me smile with her everlasting radiantly positive energy. Her attitude towards teaching was undoubtedly unmatched, as I can’t recall a single time she was visibly angry or disappointed in us. On days where I truly didn’t feel well, she always let me lay my head down in the back of the room. On days where I was incredibly stressed over my difficult classes, she let me do my homework in the back. The assignments we did were always fun, whether they involved drawing a brochure, writing letters, or even experiments.

While we did learn about the science behind foods and nutrition, hands-on learning was an extremely valuable experience. She often gave us different recipes and let us cook and bake, and sometimes she would make food for us before class. Her kindness and her willingness to give second chances to all of her students truly wowed me; it’s a rare trait to find in many people in this day and age.

During my sophomore year, she convinced me to do an FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) competition, and although we weren’t able to finish due to COVID, it was an amazing learning experience. Going back to the lack of practicality issue, I did a public policy advocacy project on the lack of practicality in public schools. Throughout the two months where I was working on the project, Ms. Dickey was always there for help and moral support. She had full faith in me and my project making it all the way to FCCLA Nationals in Washington. Her encouragement helped me create a project that I was truly proud of.

Ms. Dickey, I want to thank you for these last three years. You have made such a positive impact on me and you showed me a different perspective on life and attitude. I hope you have an amazing retirement and that you fulfill all of what your heart desires.