Corbin Middle School teacher Jenny Lou Jackson received the Middle School Teacher of the Year Award Tuesday during a special ceremony in Frankfort.
Whether it is doing back handsprings, leading her students in alligator claps or just a smile, Virginia Lou Jackson is known as the teacher who will do whatever it takes to ensure her eighth grade students at Corbin Middle School know their reading and writing.
Alongside her "Most Caring Teacher" Award from Corbin Independent Schools, the 12-year veteran teacher can now add the award as Kentucky’s "Middle School Teacher of the Year."
"At first I was overwhelmed," Jackson said. "When I heard them reading the bio, I knew it was me they were describing. I was thinking, "Oh, my goodness.’"
Jackson added that she was very humbled by the award considering the quality of the respective resumes of the 23 other teachers that joined her in Frankfort Tuesday for the awards ceremony.
"She knows core content," said Corbin Middle School Assistant Principal Penny Hammons, noting that Jackson’s efforts to teach Kentucky Core Content reading and writing components has resulted in Corbin students placing first or second in reading and writing in the last two years.
"She does a lot of things with her students that some may think is too elementary, but she always has a smile on her face," Hammons added, noting that Jackson has been known to live up to her promise to snap off a back handspring when she has challenged her students to meet a learning goal and they have responded.
Jackson said while her position is very demanding because of the test requirements her students are facing, she feels blessed to be doing it because she feels it is what she has been called to do.
It is where my gift lies," Jackson said.
Corbin Middle School Principal Ramona Davis, who is also a veteran of the classroom, said Jackson stresses to her students how important effective communication is to them, not just now, but throughout their lives.
"She is a caring teacher," Davis said of Jackson. "She cares about the students’ education and cares about them as a person."
While her style of teaching may be unique and may not work for every teacher, Davis said it works for Jackson because her students know she is just being her genuine self.
"It is like she is coaching them to put forth 100 percent," Hammons added.
Jackson, who is a former cheerleader, said while she is demanding of her students, she wants them to know that she appreciates their efforts and is proud when they reach the next goal. To that end, she took the claps and the handsprings from her cheerleading days and brought them into the classroom.
"My claps are just praise," Jackson said. "I have a very bubbly personality."
As to the back handspring, the mother of four admitted that it was initially about convincing herself that even when she hit 30 something, she could still do it. Now she uses it as a teachable moment for her students.
I’m trying to motivate the students so they know they should never give up, never stop reaching for their dreams," Jackson said.
Along with Jackson’s teaching duties, Hammons said she is involved in a number of extracurricular activities including sponsoring the cheerleading team. In addition, she mentors other teachers and leads professional development classes at the school.
Even though she has so many irons in the fire, Hammons said Jackson finds time not only do everything she needs to do, but to excel at each of those tasks.
"She is an excellent teacher," Hammons said.
Jackson has taught Language Arts at Corbin Middle School for the last three years. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Eastern Kentucky University and her master’s degree and professional teaching certification at Union College.
She is a member of the Kentucky Association of Professional Educators, National Board for Professional Teachers, First Priority and Christian Educators Association.
As Middle School Teacher of the Year, Jackson said she is excited about the opportunities to meet and speak with other teachers and representatives from the Department of Education.
"I can really see this blossoming," Jackson said. "Hopefully I can inspire somebody to answer their calling."