Teacher profile: The ever-optimistic Dallas Cowne

Madison County High School is filled with many remarkable staff members. Many teachers here have a way of engaging with students and teaching in a unique, informative way. Whether all of us admit it or not, we have an exceptional faculty. MC is a special place to be. 

But there is one teacher in particular who reigns a top favorite amongst the students of MC: Mr. Dallas Cowne. Cowne is known not only for his teaching ability, but also his endearing personality and contagious optimism. He radiates positivity and his classroom is a safe, comfortable place to learn.  Cowne makes it extremely easy for students to ask questions and to not feel restricted or looked down upon by doing so. He is always down to do whatever it takes to help his students succeed or progress in not only his classroom, but life as a whole. He never fails to help one of his students out by helping them one on one, going over assignments with his students to better help them develop an understanding of the topic, or by giving out extra credit.  It is clear to many people that Mr. Cowne cares immensely about his students.

What sets Cowne apart, however, is that he cares not only about his students’ success in his class, but also their well being outside of the class and their goals for their personal future. He cares about the ways his students past and present will impact the world.  He serves as continual inspiration to a lot of people at MCHS, so of course we wanted to interview him in hopes that maybe some of his positivity would rub off on our readers. 

What has made the biggest impact on you as an educator… or as a human in general?

Both of my parents were ELA teachers, educators, people that loved kids and kids loved them, and I looked up to them. I saw the influence they had on kids, and seeing that is without a doubt the biggest influence that I’ve had. My mom actually won like a million awards, seven star teachers; she was English teacher of the year for the state of Georgia. Everything that I have as far as goals, motivations and everything is from my folks. 

A lot of students believe that school is pointless and does not apply to real life. What do you have to say to encourage students who have this outlook?

There is a lot of it that is pointless, so my initial response would be that they are not wrong entirely, but there is a lot of value that you can get from certain aspects of the school.  Reading and writing, these are valuable things that they are going to need in real life.  There is a lot of power to the written language and so if you’ve got the right English teacher, I think you can certainly appreciate that. 

What is something you would say to students who may not feel like they have a place in high school socially and feel outcasted in life in general? 

Well that’s a legitimate feeling in life, not just high school.  You’re going to have to deal with that, so just know that… that reaction is a normal reaction. But you need to make an effort. You are going to get out of a lot of things which you put in, and if you go to college and just go to the classes and never try to get to know anybody and never try to get involved… it’s not going to be fun. Same thing is true with high school, so I would advise you to try to find a group, try to be involved and know that what you get out of high school and anything is often times what you put in. 

Find what you love and do it as often as you can.

— Dallas Cowne

One of the biggest issues facing adolescents today is a lack of motivation. What would you say to these students to help them gain motivation?

Well that’s tough.  I can tell you that you guys as teenagers have more challenges than any other group of teenagers I’ve ever seen. Obviously Covid is challenging, but the preponderance of information and activities on your phone makes you not want to do other things like go outside and climb trees and do homework and things like that. Motivation can’t come from anywhere else; it has to come from you. So I can tell you that you have to be motivated to do well in life, but ultimately you have to find something that motivates you. It may not be Twitter or Snapchat or your phone or whatever, but find something else that does motivate you and gravitate towards that. Find what you love and do it as often as you can. 

How do you stay so positive? What’s your secret?

What’s the alternative? You know, I can be negative but that’s no fun. Your happiness comes from a lot of different things, and I’m lucky that I was raised by the greatest parents ever and I have the best friends in the world. But I also focus on what I have and not what I want. I focus on what I am thankful for and not what didn’t go the right way. I try to as often as I can express sentiments of gratitude and thankfulness, whether it be vocally or in a note or whatever, because if you are focusing on what you are happy about then you are happy. So if something goes bad, I just do my best to get over it and remember that more often than not, things are good and that is my approach towards it… it’s not any kind of secret or anything but that is the way I am able to keep a smile on my face more often than not. 

Where are you originally from? Where did you go to high school?

I went to high school at Jackson High School in Jackson, Georgia – not Jackson county. I am from all over the state and because I’ve been all over the state — Fitzgerald, Washington Wilkes, Jackson, and Valdosta — I can tell you that Madison County is a very special place. There is a lot of love here and a lot of sense of community and that is not the norm. And people are usually nice and not judgmental, and even though there are some bad people here and there, the norm is good people who love where they are and where they are from and love the people they are with. So being in other places has offered me a great perspective on Madison County and that it is a very special community and I’m lucky to be here now and I plan to live the rest of my life here. 

I think the greatest thing that you can do is make this world a better place for the people around you

— Dallas Cowne

What was your high school experience like? Did you know then that you wanted to work in a school?

So let me just back up and say that I was not a good high schooler and it’s offered me a unique perspective: I can connect with some kids that are kind of like I was then. I was very concerned about other people’s perceptions of me. I wanted to be cool and I had no problem whatsoever sacrificing my own integrity or my own beliefs if I thought it would win me friends or popularity, and obviously that is a terrible way to go through life. Now luckily, years later I was able to realize that I needed to be who I really wanted to be and I should never sacrifice any of my own beliefs or what I enjoyed about life to try to be better in other people’s eyes. But that desire to want to be comfortable with myself has made me want to do the same for other people, to help them realize 10-15 years before I did that they can be whoever they truly are and they should be comfortable with it. Most importantly, they can make a positive difference in the lives of others. I think that it is nice if you’re wealthy, I think it’s cool if you’ve got a good job, I think family is obviously super important, but I think the greatest thing that you can do is make this world a better place for the people around you, and so I try to as often as I can remember that and live my life accordingly. 

How did you end up in Madison County and why do you choose to stay here?

My father was the Superintendent of the Madison County School System, and that’s how I found out about Madison County. I moved back here and moved in with my parents and went to grad school. It’s interesting the way I wound up at Madison County is because Madison County interviewed before Oglethorpe. I actually wanted to work at Oglethorpe. I really liked Oglethorpe, and so it’s just by chance that I happened to wind up in Madison County. It is not by chance or circumstance that I stayed.  I stayed because it’s a special place. If it weren’t, I would have found somewhere better off to be. My wife fell in love with it too. She’s at Colbert right now. She’s the assistant principal at Colbert, and that’s how we got here but the most important thing is why we stayed — which again is because it’s a very special place, full of special people. I look forward to one day teaching my daughter and my son right here at Madison County High School. 

Mr. Cowne sees life in a positive manner and takes life as a chance to make a difference in the lives of others. This is why Cowne is the embodiment of an extremely positive, impactful individual. His ability to connect with his students on a personal level is just part of the reason why MCHS loves and admires Mr. Cowne. His ability to impact the lives of his students and others in such a pure, meaningful way is truly a gift, and it is one we do not intend to take for granted.