Tom Dillon, new fifth grade Idyllwild School teacher. Photo by Marshall Smith
Tom Dillon, new fifth grade teacher at Idyllwild School, has a few sleight-of-hand magic tricks up his sleeve that he uses to help students pay attention, improve their observational and cognitive skills and reward them for those little leaps forward that he says makes teaching so rewarding. “I enjoy giving knowledge to kids,” said the very personable and engaging Mr. Dillon. “There’s not much in life that is as rewarding.”

Dillon is beginning his 12th year of teaching, having taught for 11 years at Ramona Elementary School in East Hemet. Dillon came straight to teaching from undergraduate study at the University of California, Riverside, where he majored in political science and history.

“I thought about going to law school,” he said, but fortunately for all his of his students, he didn’t. Dillon also holds a master’s degree in administration from Concordia University. “It makes you a better teacher to know what school administrators have to balance,” said Dillon.

Originally from the Carlsbad and Mission Viejo areas, Dillon is no stranger to Idyllwild. “My mom and dad shared a vacation cabin with another family,” he remembered. “I’ve been coming up here since I was 6 or 7 [years old]. I like anything that has to do with the mountains — hiking, climbing and mountain biking.”

Dillon has taught third and fourth grades before, but this is his first time teaching fifth grade. “I’m research oriented, so with students a little older, I think I’ll be able to direct them into doing their own research,” he said. In addition to teaching fifth grade, Dillon will coach boys’ basketball and serve as ASB (associated student body) advisor.

Asked how he would compare Idyllwild and Ramona schools, Dillon replied, “Ramona had 800 students in an elementary school. Here, the students know each other. They’re like a family. They’re teaching me.”

As to his goals for the coming year, Dillon said he just wants to come up to Idyllwild (he and his family live in Hemet) and be part of the community. “I want to make a lasting impression on the kids and watch them walk out of my class at the end of the year having grown.” And, just maybe, there’ll be some magic that helps them grow.