Tuesday, June 16, 2020

St. Joseph-Ogden grad lands AD job at Salt Fork

On the Move! Following the rise of successful members from our community
In 2011, Dustin Dees decided to further his education to obtain a Master’s in Education Administration from Eastern Illinois University. The move paid off last month when the 2004 St. Joseph-Ogden High School graduate assumed the role of Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Catlin High School last month.

Before moving into his administrative role at the high school and as AD, Dees was a physical education teacher and coach at Tuscola High School.

"I felt like it would open the door for future opportunities to work with students, teachers, and coaches in an educational leaders role," he said. "I am grateful for all my experiences as a teacher and coach to this point. I owe a lot to some great communities and school systems such as Decatur, Monticello, Bismarck - Henning, and Tuscola. These places provided me with the experience I needed to pursue my dream of working in education administration."

He is grateful for the opportunities and the individuals who mentored him leading him to land his position at the Vermilion County school. He counts himself lucky to have been able to coach basketball, track & field, and cross country in several great towns, with some great coaches, and more importantly, with several programs that had great student-athletes.

"I owe a lot to great high school head coaches and athletic directors such as Coach Mike Stephens at Bismarck-Henning, Coach Matt Franks when he was at Tuscola, Coach Dave Beery at Monticello, Ryan Hornaday, Tuscola’s AD, and Randy Moss when he was the AD at Monticello," he pointed out. "Being around coaches and athletic directors like these helped me learn what great coaching and leadership look like on a daily basis."

Dustin Dees celebrates an SJO touchdown during a 2003 football playoff game
Senior Dustin Dees celebrates a touchdown by running back Daniel Widick during SJO's Week 2 road playoff game against Carlinville. When asked what did he remember about the 2003 game he wrote:

"I remember that game being a thriller! We were down early and made a huge comeback to win 19-14! If I remember correctly Carlinville had been ranked in the 4A polls that year and dropped down to 3A for the playoffs. They were really good that year and had a better seed than us. Answering the bell and winning that game was huge."

The Spartans indeed defeated the Cavaliers, 19-14.

The most rewarding part of coaching for the former Spartan who played football and basketball at SJO, is watching kids improve.

"I feel like as a coach it’s always a personal goal each meeting with your team for each athlete to get better at something," he explained. "That may not always mean improvement in the sport you are coaching, the reward for me extends into witnessing athletes become better teammates, improving work ethic, and building strong character."

His fondest memories from high school was playing four years of Spartan football.

"There was always such a buzz around our football program. There was just something about the fall at SJO and high school football that gives me goosebumps thinking about it," he recounted. "When I reflect on those days I think about how lucky I was to learn from the great coaches I had like Dick Duval, Brad Allen, and Bob Glazier."

Off the gridiron, Dees said the quality of his education at SJO was invaluable.

"I also have great memories of having some of the best teachers," he add. "I always felt like we had extremely high quality teachers at SJO, many of who were also coaches, and that made going to school a lot of fun."

While at Tuscola, Dees helped obtain $5,000 matching grant with Tuscola CUSD #301 and the Tuscola Rotary to add "POLAR" heart rate tracking technology for the classroom. He also developed a dynamic physical education curriculum for kindergarten age students through the fourth grade and he led the way in the creation of a school wide wellness committee. He also created a school Health and Wellness Fundraiser called "Competing for Wellness".

Prior to taking teaching and coaching responsibilities at Tuscola High School, Dees spent two years in the Bismarck-Henning school district where he coached junior high basketball and track. He also developed a junior high "Student learning outcomes" for physical education program and built district approved Student Growth Assessment program.

Outsiders might look at his job as athletic director and assume that scheduling games and managing travel for teams under his umbrella might be one of the biggest challenges he will face in the new job, especially as the Vermilion Valley Conference adds three new programs after the break up of the Sangamon Valley Conference at the end of the coming school year. Dees said navigating the uncertainties as well as maintaining a safe athletic environment during the Coronavirus pandemic might be tougher.

"Scheduling with the new VVC should go pretty smoothly since the conference AD’s work well together," he said. "The challenge I see for next year will be accommodating and changing some of the things that we do for COVID-19."

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