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8th grader, Matt Lichtenberg and Mrs. Jackson. Photo by Linda Baggett

Watching Teri Jackson interact with her students and later speaking with her during the interview for this article, I was amazed when she revealed she was quiet and horribly shy as a child. Growing up as an Air Force brat, she moved around a lot and said that she learned that while there are certainly visible differences in people, they all want the same thing: to be noticed, to feel accepted, and to feel loved. She found had a way of getting people to open up and talk to her and she also realized she wanted to be a teacher. But that was not the first path she walked.

After graduation, Teri attended UT-Tyler, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and over the years, worked in many different jobs, none very fulfilling. Then she and her sister opened a tee shirt shop in Gladewater. Sadly, her sister fell ill and they had to sell the store. Uncertain of her future, Teri’s mom reminded her she had always wanted to be a teacher and encouraged her to return to college for her teaching certificate. And now here she is: Mrs. Jackson, teacher.

Mrs. Jackson first taught in Gladewater, then came to Big Sandy in 2007, teaching at the high school level. Two years ago, she moved to junior high where she teaches Keyboarding, Tech Apps, and College and Career Readiness. Keyboarding is learning to type by touch; Tech Apps include Word, Excel, Power Point, plus how technology and computers affect our lives; and CCR is preparing for college/vocational school, learning work ethics such as responsibility, coming to work on time; and introducing them to everyday (but very important) things they will encounter in the adult world like how to balance a check book. All this on the junior high-level. Mrs. Jackson was concerned they might not be interested, but they have been enthusiastic. “Nothing,” she says, “is more satisfying than seeing a kid when that ‘light bulb’ goes off and they start asking more questions and really get into thinking of the future.”

Speaking of future, Mrs. Jackson is creating a new project: a timeline that chronicles major life events. They will explore what happens after graduation…college, a job, purchase of a vehicle, marriage, purchase of a home, children…and all that goes along with these ‘events.’ (Watch for a follow-up article on this!) These kids are going to be several steps ahead – mentally and emotionally – when they encounter life after graduation!

Mrs. Jackson gives credit and thanks to her mom and dad. They taught her about respect, how to love and be kind to people. Her sister, she said, is equally wonderful. She and husband, Rick, have two sons, Hunter and Sam, and is a new grandmother.

When asked if they would like to comment, Superintendent Jay Ratcliff and Junior High Principal Kim Stradley replied with great enthusiasm:

Mr. Ratcliff says, “Mrs. Jackson has a profound way with her students. She understands that without a strong relationship with her kids, there will be no chance for meaningful education. Students look to her for guidance and seek her classes out. She makes education fun and her students would do anything for her. I value having Mrs. Jackson on our campuses and she is a joy to work with every day!”

Mrs. Stradley said, “Most importantly, Mrs. Jackson is here for the students and understands that teaching is more than just teaching a subject to a classroom full of kids. She teaches not only her subject matter with passion and intellect, she makes her classes fun and engaging. Students enjoy her classes and learn not only a subject but how to be better people. She is a role model in every way. She exemplifies what it means to be understanding but yet holds students accountable for their own actions. She also shows students what it means to be respectful and gracious on a daily basis.”

Mrs. Jackson encountered some of the same obstacles our kids face today…shyness, bullying, uncertainty. She said she felt ‘invisible’ at school but hopes that her experiences have given her the ability to let the kids know they aren’t invisible and that they do matter.