Veteran educator has no plans for retirement

March 04, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

Editor's note: The Herald-Mail is featuring one elementary school teacher each month through June. The nine-part series highlights excellent educators on the first Monday of each month. Coming in April: Sharpsburg Elementary School.

HANCOCK - Sandra Lucas Jackson scoffs at the word retirement.

Even though she's eligible, the 54-year-old Hancock Elementary School teacher doesn't think she'll be walking away from the classroom anytime soon.

"I'd have a big void in my life without school, and I don't even care to think about that," Jackson said.

Jackson, a teacher in Washington County Public Schools for 32 years, has taught in grades three through eight before her current role as Hancock's technology resource teacher.


Jackson is in charge of finding educational computer programs and games for students, teaching them how to navigate the Internet and assisting teachers who need help with programs or equipment.

Principal Donna Newcomer-Coble said Jackson always makes herself available to those who need assistance.

"If you need help and she's there, she's going to give it to you," Newcomer-Coble said. "She's a great support to anybody in the building. She will stop what she's doing and do it."

Jackson said her enthusiasm for the job has been lifelong.

"It's just something I always wanted to do," she said. "It was just a given."

Jackson said the biggest reward from teaching is being with students and "making sure no one slips through the cracks."

Newcomer-Coble said Jackson usually has fresh ideas to improve student achievement and looks forward to trying new programs.

"After all these years of teaching, she still gets really energized about new things," Newcomer-Coble said. "You can just see Sandy's eyes light up. She's always ready to do something different."

One of her ideas is to apply for a state school reform grant called Achievement First, which would increase professional development opportunities for teachers and encourage community involvement, therefore increasing the quality of education at Hancock, Jackson and Newcomer-Coble said.

The school would receive $150,000 a year for three years if it is awarded the grant. Jackson is in the process of writing the application.

Three years ago, Jackson began using Reading Counts, an interactive reading program for young students. Hancock was the first in the county to use the program, which has since caught on in other schools.

Through Reading Counts, students read books and then take online tests based on what they read. The computer keeps tracks of scores and points, and students are rewarded through parties and other incentives for scoring well.

Jackson, a native of Hancock, has spent most of her teaching career in Hancock schools. Her first job was at Clear Spring High School, then she moved to Hancock Middle-Senior High School before transferring across the street to Hancock Elementary.

She received her bachelor's degree from Towson University and a master's in elementary guidance from Shippensburg (Pa.) University.

Jackson and her husband, William, live in Hancock. She has two sons and one stepdaughter.

Jackson, who often spends some of her summer vacation preparing for the opening of the school year, said she plans to teach until she's no longer able.

"I think kids keep you young, so I'm going to stay here forever."

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