South Charlotte

History teacher gets a special recognition

Ted Dickson, an upper school history teacher and department chairman at Providence Day School, got a thank you the whole world could see.

Past student Reggie Love announced Dickson was his favorite teacher in the form of a YouTube video that has almost 2,000 hits since November.

Love's public service announcement is part of the TEACH campaign, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Education designed to help young people learn more about being a teacher and encourage them to join a profession where they can make a difference.

Love is personal aide to President Barack Obama, a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job that keeps him at the president's side. The PSA was shot on one of the porches of the White House.

Love, a 2000 Providence Day graduate, transferred to the school as a freshman. A basketball standout who also played football, the opportunity to be part of the Providence Day family left a profound mark on Love.

On and off the playing fields, his leadership was apparent. In basketball, he racked up the N.C. Independent Schools' state Player of the Year award a couple of times and won two state championships.

Love was all-state in football. He held class, student government association and Key Club offices and worked on the Cultural Alliance and yearbook staffs.

And yet it was the time spent in Dickson's 11th-grade AP history class that left the biggest impression.

Love went to Duke University and graduated in 2004 with a political science degree.

Dickson said Love wanted to take a stab at professional football, trying for spots on both the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. It wasn't meant to be, however, and while Love thought about what to do next, Duke basketball player and friend Chris Duhon called him to come to Chicago to work as an intern with then-Sen. Obama.

Love became Obama's personal aide while Obama was a presidential candidate, and Love ascended with Obama to the White House.

Among other duties, Love organizes the president's basketball games and plays with him regularly. According to Dickson, Obama refers to Love as "his little brother."

Dickson, 49, was surprised when he heard of the honor. A friend let him know he was on YouTube, and he was relieved to find the appearance was on the positive side.

Love says in the 30-second spot that Dickson "helped me understand the hunger and the need for knowledge," and that "the interaction that we had will stay with me for the rest of my life."

Fitting words for a teacher with Dickson's resume. Dickson has been a teacher for 28 years - 20 of them at Providence Day.

A Princeton-trained educator with a master's degree in American and modern European history from the University of California at Santa Barbara, Dickson came by his love of history naturally. He grew up in Weston, Mass., 12 miles outside Boston, in a family with a long lineage of academics and politicians.

The Dicksons were a well-connected family that passed on stories and were part of historical events most of us would only get to read about. As a result, Dickson grew up living with history.

That rich background helps history come alive for his students through the inclusion of personal anecdotes. In a lesson about what life was like for the women left behind during the Civil War, Dickson shows students a picture Winslow Homer painted in 1864 called "The Initials." A young woman in a blue dress stands behind a tree in a pine grove.

The woman depicted in the painting is Dickson's great-grandmother.

Dickson said he believes his firsthand involvement in history when growing up sparked his love of all things historical, especially the Civil War.

"I love what I'm doing," said Dickson. "When I came to PDS in the fall of 1991, I told the headmaster I would give it five years." The rest is history.