Who is Doris Dillon?

from l. to r.: The Children's Library at the Almaden branch library in San Jose, CA is named in Doris's memory. Doris at a national awards ceremony in Washington D.C. presided over by President Clinton. Doris teaching her favorite passion: reading. Doris's portrait at our school in Cambodia, built in her honor. Her husband Gary is sitting to the left of her portrait.

from l. to r.: The Children's Library at the Almaden branch library in San Jose, CA is named in Doris's memory. Doris at a national awards ceremony in Washington D.C. presided over by President Clinton. Doris teaching her favorite passion: reading. Doris's portrait at our school in Cambodia, built in her honor. Her husband Gary is sitting to the left of her portrait.

My wife Denise and I first discovered how singularly remarkable Doris Dillon was when she taught our oldest son, Mike, in third grade. She simply radiated this passion for reading when she gathered kids around her to share a book's stories. That passion was positively infectious. Denise and I taught middle school until we retired recently and, in all our years, we can both count on one hand the teachers who have had as deep a lasting influence on children as Doris had. Her unique spirit was recognized when she was invited to Washington D.C. to receive an award for teaching excellence. One of her most memorable moments was talking with President Clinton. Columbia University named an education wing in her honor and, at home in San Jose, the Almaden branch library named their Children's Library in her memory. 

I remember meeting with her at Williams Elementary School where she was working shortly before her death from ALS in 2001. I'd forgotten how advanced her disease was when I began talking to her about some ideas I had for teaching literature. I saw how intently she listened to me and then, when I finished, she held up her hand, took out a pencil and notepad and wrote out her reply to me. Her tortured body still held that radiance--that's how kept students' rapt attention at Williams while she wrote out her teaching on that same notepad. 

On that New Year's Day in 2007, when Denise and I decided to build a school in Cambodia, we instantly knew who we would name the  school after: the most inspiring teacher we'd known, Doris Dillon.

Click on the link below to read the eulogy given at Doris's memorial service, written and given by her close friend and one of our board members, Elaine Gould.