News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 11, 2013

State association honors West Vigo teacher: Building success

Scott Dillion presented with Middle School Teacher Excellence Award

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Scott Dillion’s seventh-hour technology class was divided into teams as students worked on a manufacturing project — wood cutout pumpkins that could be decorated and placed in the ground.

The West Vigo Middle School students knew their jobs and went straight to work.

One group used a computer to design the product and then a laser machine to cut the square piece of wood into a pumpkin shape. The laser is a $12,000 piece of equipment.

Another team stained the pumpkins an orange color, while a separate group glued wooden stakes on the pumpkins and used a nail gun to secure them.

Another team used a miter saw to cut wood squares to take back to the design team.

In one 45-minute class period, the students made more than 20 pumpkins — which later will be taken to children in the high school Vikes and Tykes program. Children will decorate the pumpkins and then “hammer” them into the ground outside — they’ll have their own pumpkin patch.

“They’ll be on display until Halloween. The children [will] see them everyday when they come in. Kids love it,” Dillion said.

The students in his seventh-hour class filled out applications for their “jobs,” and they also keep time slips. The process teaches them about different jobs and how people get paid  — salary versus hourly.

Such instruction has brought Dillion, who has taught technology at West Vigo for 16 years, statewide recognition for his efforts.

The Engineering/Technology Educators of Indiana presented Dillion with the Middle School Teacher Excellence Award at the group’s annual conference.

The award is given to an individual “who is a role-model for students inside and outside the classroom,” according to information provided by the organization.

The recipient “teaches the most current developments in technology education. Instruction is based on the interests, needs and abilities of the learners.” Also, the teacher must be highly effective and maintain and develop rapport with students and peers.

Dillion is described as “compassionate, diligent and more than willing to help all students.”

In his middle school program, he has developed learning units that promote specific career pathways. Students are engaged — from building a robot, running machines, programming a laser and many other activities, according to the organization.

Dillion is now eligible to represent Indiana at the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association conference in March 2014.

Dillion “does such a fantastic job teaching the students about technology, Principal Julie Lautenschlager said. “He makes learning fun. Scott allows the students to brainstorm, make, revise and create again when working on projects. He allows students to make mistakes so that they can see why something didn’t work, and then he has them go back and try again. Students enjoy the hands-on experiences in Mr. Dillion’s class.”  

He also “is the biggest advocate for students,” Lautenschlager said. “He is always willing to help out or be a mentor.”

Dillion is on the school’s “trauma team,” which raises money to help students and their families when they experience difficult times. “Scott truly cares about the students, and he strives to make a difference in their lives,” Lautenschlager said.

Dillion said he was surprised and pleased to win the award. “I get to teach a class that the kids love. I feel like this is a big playland for me, because this is all the stuff that I like,” he said.

His approach to teaching is “hands-on equals minds-on,” he said. His classes don’t have textbooks; students do projects with real-world applications that also incorporate math and English.

The equipment used, from vinyl sign makers to laser machines, are what industry is using, he said. That makes the equipment expensive.

Teaching is in the family. His parents were teachers, and two of his brothers, Doug and Gregg, also are educators; Doug is the VCSC director of career/technical education, while Gregg is a teacher at Terre Haute South Vigo High School.

Doug Dillion describes Scott as “a great teacher. He really does some innovative, creative things.”

When Scott’s students do manufacturing activities, the students help select the products they make, and they also work with business classes to market the products.

At the annual Home Show, “he is always heavily involved and working with all schools to make sure middle school technology is well-represented and has a nice display,” Doug Dillion said.

Scott also has taught an adult community education woodworking class for many years. He integrates new technology into those classes and he takes the adult woodworkers on field trips. The group also has a booth at the Home Show and Pioneer Days.

“I love doing that,” Scott said. “It’s an opportunity to work at a whole different level.” Many in the adult woodworking class are experienced woodcarvers, and they demonstrated their skills during last weekend’s Pioneer Days.

On Wednesday, during the last period of the day at West Vigo, eighth-graders worked on building Vex robots.

One of the students, Braden Hogue, said he likes the project work in Dillion’s class and the more advanced technology. Students are learning skills that will help them in the work world, he said. Hogue especially enjoys making the robots.

Another student, Jamie Cuffle, described her technology teacher as “really dedicated” and said she enjoys his “hands-on” classes.

“We’re doing something new every single day,” she said. She likes working with advanced machinery, including lasers.

She said she’d like to be a technology teacher some day, just like Dillion. “I think that would be cool,” Cuffle said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or