Jennifer Dixon-McKnight is passionate about the subjects she teaches at Tidewater Community College. As a United States history professor who also teaches African American history and African-American studies, she said, “I want to be the change I want to see in the world. Knowledge is power, and being able to see things from different perspectives allows us all to grow and understand the world in new ways.”
Dixon-McKnight joined TCC in 2013 after working at Duke University. “When I started my own college journey, I was planning to become a pediatrician. That all changed when I did terribly in my math and science classes,” she said.
She refocused her studies while pursuing her bachelor’s at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “I remembered my fascination of African-American studies from high school, so I decided to take college-level classes in the subject. And that was that. I fell in love and found my place.”
Dixon-McKnight is the mother of 3-year-old Madison and married to Edward, a Navy chief. She is currently at work on her Ph.D. in United States and Women’s History with a dissertation that focuses on African-American women in the South. “I get up very early to write, and have to keep things pretty structured to manage, but the learning makes it all worth it.”
While the Navy brought her to Hampton Roads, TCC has provided a place to teach the subjects she loves. “I try to convey the information that I’m passionate about in different ways. I try to avoid having students nod off in class. It’s my goal to be the opposite of Ferris Bueller’s teacher,” she said with a laugh.
Dixon-McKnight uses lectures, audio visual presentations and group activities to cover her subjects. “I love the diversity of TCC’s student body and the fact that the college is a steppingstone, whether a student is going on to a four-year school or into industry,” she said. “This is where learning happens in so many different ways.
“Every day is interesting, but the most interesting times are when we have to have those difficult conversations about race. In one class, we had a woman point out that she was sitting alone in her row because she looks different from others in the class. It took great courage on her part, and really opened everyone's eyes. That class worked well together after that.”
Dixon-McKnight added, “There’s never a dull moment. I see a lot of diversity in my classes, people from all walks of life. To see them work together to learn, that’s what excites me and keeps me in the classroom.