NEW MADISON — Dixie Robbins said she is excited about being named grand marshal of the parade to be held during the Tri-Village Community and School Fair with Homecoming the week of Oct. 4-8.
The parade itself will be on Saturday, Oct. 8.
“Monyca (Schlechty) called me and I was kind of taken aback,” Robbins said. “I know how hard those girls work. They very thoroughly consider who they choose. I was real excited and still am. I can’t say enough about all those women on the committee. The group is small and they work hard. Their goal is to preserve traditions of our community. I have the utmost respect and praise for them.”
Robbins said she’s also glad they are combining the fall homecoming with the community and school fair this year.
Robbins, grew up in Palestine and went to Liberty Local/Westmont High School, graduating in 1970. Her alma mater and Hollansburg school later consolidated with New Madison and became known as Tri-Village.
“My old high school superintendent, Bill Holmes, was the Tri-Village superintendent when I came back and interviewed and he hired me,” said Robbins, who earned her bachelor’s and later on her master’s degrees from Miami University.”
She began her teaching career in fifth grade.
“It was an open class-concept and I taught that for nine years,” she said. “By that time I had two daughters and twin sons and took a year’s leave of absence.”
When she went back to school, there was an opening in the junior high.
“I majored in language arts and Nora Kay Francis had math and we asked if we could trade classes,” Robbins said. “So, she taught language arts and I junior high math for 15 years. Then, the junior high language arts position opened up and I transferred to that for 11 years. I taught a class of keyboarding and wrote a couple of grants that the school got; one on computer and I taught a computer class. I was also yearbook adviser for six years.”
She was named tech coordinator for awhile and had also served as adviser for both the junior high and senior high student councils during her tenure.
“We had a great group of teachers,” she said. “We were always brainstorming, and we thought about intervention. I wrote a grant for it and we were selected for funding. I became intervention coordinator. We were one of the first in the state. Principal Bonnie Coe and I went to Columbus State University conference and presented our program there. This was a team effort of the junior high staff, which included Nora Kay, Kevin Gruber, Roger Rutan and Becky Gruber. We named Karen Shepherd and Tony Thomas, then superintendent, as subs, and they became intervention teachers.”
In addition to helping students academically, they also helped them with their social and family problems as well.
“We pulled the kids out of regular classes and did intervention and worked to help them catch up,” Robbins said.
Robbins works with the Westmont/Palestine/Hollansburg Alumni and it is attempting to get a memorial marker started, with collections already coming in to recognized Westmont was there.
“It was Hollansburg High School before it became Westmont,” she said. “They saved the block that said Hollansburg, but we don’t have one for Westmont. We are looking for a bench that will read 1952-1972 [Westmont’s longevity].”
She said she has fun working on the alumni committee.
“I enjoy listening to the older folks who have wonderful memories,” said Robbins, who is now secretary of that committee. “I have been putting everything on computer and am using Rick Brewer’s list he started one and that has been helpful.”
She remembers the early Tri-Village School days while teaching.
“The school didn’t have a lot of money and not a lot of books” she said. “I was teaching sixth-grade math with no book. I wrote to every company and had them provide me with books in exchange for me critiquing them. Three of the companies each sent me a classroom set of books. You’ve got to be creative when you teach and ask for things out in left field and sometimes they happen.”
Robbins herself served on the school fair committee for many years, and they attend all of their grandchildren’s events as well as attend Palestine Church of Christ, where they were married.
She taught three generations of students. Superintendents she served under were Emory Hutchinson, John Montgomery, Joe Scholler, Lucian [known as Dr. S], and Tony Thomas.
Robbins is married to Paul Robbins, a 1962 Westmont graduate.
“He was in my sister Jill’s class, and Paul’s brother, Duane was in my class,” said the former Dixie Ritz.
They first dated when she was in college, have been married for 43 years and are now the parents of four children and have six grandchildren.
Daughter Kelly (Mrs. Greg) Hampton is an administrative assistant in a cardiology office in Richmond, Indiana; daughter Katie (Mrs Jerry) Osborne works at the preschool at Tri-Village; son John, who is technically savvy, works for CareSource in Dayton and had been technology coordinator at Tri-Village for awhile; and Joshua, who works at GTI.
She loves having their grandchildren over. They age from 19 to 15 months of age.
“I have Granny Camp in the summer,” she said. “They’re here almost all summer. We have such fun playing games. It looks like a campground here when the grandkids come.”
All four of the Robbinses’ children and their two sons-in-law are graduates of Tri-Village High School.
At her retirement, a photo was taken of her and 16 former students who are currently working at Tri-Village; one a school secretary, another an aide, one a building supervisor and the rest teachers.
She is the daughter of the late Raymond and Alice (Lindamood) Ritz. Her father died when she was 13 and her mother died in 1994.
Her mother had two children from a previous relationship — Jack Green (now deceased) and Jill Greer (now Riegle) — and her father had three children Ralph, Raymond Ritz and Louise Riffell. Then, her parents married and had her.
“My parents were both on the park board in Palestine, so, at all of the events, they were there helping and that’s the kind of service-mindedness that people handed down,” she said. “I had worked at Vacation Bible School, was a Cub Scout leader, coached Little League, was a Ladder-ettes officer when Paul was with the fire department and I’m an active supporter of Kiwanis. Already our children are doing those things. They saw us involved in things and now they are. It makes me proud to see that legacy continuing through our grandchildren.”
Her first job was in eighth grade when she baby-sat for four children in Palestine five days a week, 9 1/2 hours a day for $20 a week. Later on, she worked at Fram, in retail, at Big N, at Downing’s apple orchard. She also helped husband Paul in the fields at Downing while he developed hybrids of corn.
She will be forever known for her “cartwheels.”
“Those started in the early days of my teaching career,” she said. “I was talking to my class and told them if they all got 100 on a spelling test that I would do a cartwheel. They did it and that became my claim to fame. Once that started, it continued for many years until the point I was afraid to try it.”
But, in 2015 following a cheerleading competition at the school and everyone left, she decided to try another one.
“I was always called the Spirit Queen, but I tried and fell on my face,” she said, laughing. “But that inspired the kids to work. Teachers use every excuse they can to get kids to learn. My gosh, did it work. I was a real positive motivator.”
Retirement has been busy for her. She enjoys crocheting, working with crafts and with reading.
“I never focused on the bad things in life,” she said. “I was always able to count my blessings. Those bad things made me a better teacher. I was very approachable in the classroom. My focus are the blessings and joys in my life. My sister, Jill, and husband Paul have been my two rocks as are my children as they grow older.”