Dillow retires after 30-year career in education
After three decades of walking the halls of New Mexico public schools as an administrator and teacher, the principal of Belen’s alternative high school is retiring.
Buddy Dillow, the principal of Infinity High School, officially will step down on Oct. 31, bringing an end to a 30-year career that started in Las Vegas, N.M.
He spent 12 of those years working in the Belen Consolidated Schools as a science teacher, football coach and principal.
Dillow, who took a leave of absence at the beginning of the year, said he is retiring because circumstances beyond his control sent him signals he could no longer ignore.
“I had some health issues come up and it woke me up to the fact that I needed to take care of myself,” Dillow said, not wanting to discuss specifics. “I put so much into what I am doing, I am exhausted by the end of the day and that has been affecting me.”
Many of his co-workers believe it’s a combination of the skills he acquired throughout his long career that has made him such an effective educator and leader.
“Mr. Dillow’s inspiration has instilled faith and motivated me to be a better educator,” said Mary Batista, cooperative education coordinator at Infinity High School. “His intrinsic desire to encourage and promote students is a leading example of what it means to be an excellent educator.”
Superintendent Ron Marquez and several Infinity staff members credit Dillow with promoting a structured environment that encourages student and teacher accountability. But building an educational environment with a focus on strengthening community ties while teaching the discipline necessary for success wasn’t easy, Marquez said.
He remembers how Dillow soothed over the complaints he received from parents and students when he instituted, some say strict, rules regarding the appearance of students, including a ban on body piercing.
“What he finally got students and families to realize is, ‘whether I like it or not, I’m being judged on my appearance so I better make that appearance good,’” Marquez said.
The superintendent attributes Dillow’s success at chipping away at the walls many teenagers create between them and authority figures.
For example, Marquez said, Dillow held a mock interview, where he told one student to dress and act professionally and the other to do the opposite. Then he had a classwide discussion on who (the class) would hire and why, Marquez recalls.
Dillow said out of all the changes he has witnessed during his career, the one that stands out the most is the increased accountability that govern today’s educational process.
“When I first started, we offered the education and if the kids wanted it, it was kind of up to them,” he said. “Now, with the accountability, it’s mandatory that we educate our kids.”
In order to provide that education, Dillow said, teachers today must be willing to find ways to compete with a teenager’s social world and get them to realize the value of an education.
Dillow said has had a rewarding career and is proud of what he accomplished as an educator and doubts his passion will allow him to be sidelined for too long.
“I am not going to be far away from education and, just because I’m retiring from the profession for the moment, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to return to it one day and contribute in some way or another.”
Matt Williams has been named the interim principal at Infinity High School.