Listen to this article here
There are very few things common about Julie Jackson. For starters, she is the first Black Co-Chief Executive Officer for Uncommon Schools in its 25-year history.
Jackson has been in education for nearly 30 years. Her experience started in the classroom, as a Teach For America core member in 1994. Since then, she has served as dean of students, principal, Chief Schools officer, and has trained over 25,000 teachers and leaders in the education sector, according to uncommonschools.org.
The beginning of her career in education was uncommon, too. Her initial placement had her scheduled to teach second or third grade, but upon arrival at the school, the principal had something else in mind.
“I got my placement school and I remember them telling me that I was going to get second or third grade,” Jackson told the Black Wall Street Times. “Well, I show up in Paterson, New Jersey, school 30. My principal, Mr. Carramico, he’s like, who is Jackson? I’m like, That’s me. He’s like, eighth grade.” Despite the last-minute switch, Jackson kept a positive attitude and rolled with the change, she mentioned.
Short term goal, long term impact
Teach for America contracts last for two years. Jackson, who has a B.A. in communication, wanted to be one of the people who served their two-year commitment, and leave.
“When I got into Teach for America, I was like two years and I’m done, right. That was the goal, right?” she said. “But once I got into that classroom, and I realized what kids know and don’t know, and that they don’t know they don’t know it. When you’re a kid you don’t know what you don’t know, or a parent, right? And I was like, wow, it’s a calling.” Jackson said.
Jackson desires for students to be successful beyond the classroom and ensure they are set up for opportunities in the future. “Well, first and foremost, I want our schools and classrooms to be a place of both joy and rigor, right. Because we all know that the further you get an education, the more opportunities you have.” Jackson told the Black Wall Street Times.
More than a title, more than a name
Jackson has a hands-on role in all aspects of the organization’s 53 schools, from visiting schools and interacting with students, all the way up to recruiting college students to become teachers for Uncommon Schools.
“It’s exciting for me to play a direct role in recruitment.” She told the Black Wall Street times. “So, when we’re recruiting teachers, and we’re doing videos, or we’re doing seminars, or we’re out there talking to people, I’m happy to be that face and tell my story of like, where I started, and where it goes and what it leads to.” She said.
College to Principalship Pipeline
Uncommon schools have a summer teaching fellowship program to get more people in the classroom. Students must be a junior in college to be considered for the program. “We recruit mainly at HBCU schools, and we recruit college kids their junior year of college,” Jackson said. Upon completion of the fellowship, students are offered teaching jobs before their senior year.
Two gentlemen that Jackson recruited out of college, became teachers and are now principals.
“I had been recruiting them for principalship early on in their teaching, but they just didn’t know it.” Jackson said. “I would spend time in their classrooms, I would connect with them, send them emails and inspire them in their work. They went from becoming…first-year teachers…to principals now leading two of our all-boys schools in Brooklyn.” She told the Black Wall Street Times.