By Blake Schnitker
Back in August of 2015, Jacksonville High School was in search of a new Athletic Director following the departure of former AD Jared Lamb. And once the hiring process had concluded, JHS Principal Mike McGiles had found his man in Joey Dion, who, aside from being chosen as Athletic Director, would also serve as the school’s new Assistant Principal. Dion’s hiring was based on both his experience as an educator, as well as his familiarity with Jacksonville and the surrounding area.
“I came to Jacksonville in ’96 to go to Illinois College and I just really enjoyed the area,” Dion said of how he was initially drawn to the city. “Jacksonville’s a great place to be and so after college I stayed in the area for a few years – and really would’ve liked to have stayed here – just opportunity took me away for a short term, but I knew that, with my wife being from this area, we knew that we wanted to get back to Jacksonville eventually.”
A native of Carthage, Ill., Dion became familiar with the city of Jacksonville when he attended Illinois College, where he also played football from 1996 to 2000. While at IC, Dion earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Education before accepting his first teaching job at Beardstown Jr.-Sr. High School. From there, Dion went on to take a job as teacher and football coach at the (then) recently formed Athens High School in 2005. The following year, in 2006, Dion began working towards obtaining a Master of Education, Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Illinois-Springfield. Upon completing his Master’s degree in 2009, Dion was hired as Principal and Athletic Director at Illini West High School in his hometown of Carthage. In 2014, Dion returned to Jacksonville when he accepted a job as the Principal of Lafayette Academy, where he remained for just one year before settling into his current position at JHS.
“Each (former school) was more than just a stair step to me, all of them gave me good experience throughout education,” Dion said.
“I took my first administrative job in 2009 at Illini West in Carthage, my hometown, so I was there for five years, which gave me good experience on the administrative side,” said Dion. “(At Illini West), I was Assistant Principal, I was doing Athletics and I was doing transportation, and I was really enjoying that job. Really all of my previous jobs gave me good experience throughout education – I was Athletic Director, I’ve dealt with transportation as well as the alternative side of education. Last year, the opportunity came to be the Principal at Lafayette, and I thoroughly enjoyed that position. But when the opportunity with District 117 I absolutely wanted that experience.”
“(My wife and I), like I said, had an opportunity to come back to the Jacksonville area and we always had that in our minds as a place where we’d ultimately return some day, a place where we would hopefully raise a family.”
In terms of how his first year at JHS has gone so far, Dion said, “I want people to know that I’m really enjoying being a part of the Jacksonville Crimsons. Having been in this area, knowing and seeing the structure and the enthusiasm of the community … and the people have been so welcoming. Knowing the strong tradition of athletics at JHS – whether it’s The Bowl or some of our other great programs – I’m very excited to be associated with that now, and what I personally want to bring to JHS is that shared enthusiasm.”