Hampton City Schools – Wired In – December 15, 2015

(upbeat techno music) – Hello, and
welcome to Wired In. I’m Diana Gulotta with
Hampton City Schools. I’m very excited today to be
joined by Mrs. Romona Jackson, our Teacher of the Year. Welcome. – Well, thank you, thank
you for inviting me today. – First of all, congratulations. This is a great honor. Not only are you Teacher
of the Year for Lindsay, you were named, last spring, Teacher of the Year for
the entire school system, so congratulations. – [Romona] Thank you. – Secondly, let’s find out
a little bit about you. Tell us a little bit
about your background. – Okay, well, I will start with how I
came into this position. At the age of 13, when
I was the babysitter, I knew that what I wanted to
do was to work with children, in some capacity. You never know what
life may bring you, so here I am. I started out as a
preschool teacher. And I did that for at least 23 years. – At least.
– At least. Unfortunately, life happened, and my husband was murdered. At that time, I was forced
to become a single parent. So, when I got myself together, through that situation, I decided to step out on faith, and go to school full-time. So I earned my Bachelors degree
at Norfolk State University, in music education. And then, I went straight
from there to ODU, to obtain my Masters
in Education, with emphasis on
special education. During my matriculation there, I was hired as a
long-term sub, at Moton, and that’s how I
started my journey here, with Hampton City Schools. – A sad story, but we’re glad that you
ended up with us, and that you are having an impact on students’ lives. We’re so thankful for that. But, my condolences to you
on the loss of your husband. – [Romona] Thank you. – But congratulations, in
terms of going to school, and getting your education, and coming back to
serve the students, the thing that you identified
when you were 13 years old, to come back. You are at Lindsay
Middle School, as a special education teacher. Tell us a little bit about your life at Lindsay
Middle School. And tell us a little bit
about Lindsay Middle School, which, from what I understand,
is a great place to be. – Oh, yes it is. I wouldn’t have
it any other way. I started there, as
well, as a long-term sub. The following year, they
had several positions open for special education teachers, and I was hired. And I worked in a
self-contained classroom. And I loved every
single minute of it. The thing about that is, not every first-year
teacher can say that. But with the support
of the administrators, and my coworkers, and especially my instructional
assistant at that time, Alicia Johnson. That first year,
100% of our students passed the History SOL. That was a huge encouragement
for a first-year teacher. The following year, I went into full inclusion. So, I have been an inclusion
teacher ever since. I have had so many opportunities to expand my
horizons and Lindsay, with all the support
that I’ve had. I’m the Drama director there. I also present a talent show yearly. It’s called “Lindsay Idol”. Named after “American Idol”.
– Right – I’m also a member
of the PBIS team, which is the Positive Behavior
Intervention Support Team. I presented an idea
to Ms. Byrd-Wright, about opening a Lindsay store, and then creating Lindsay Bucks. The students are rewarded those
Bucks for positive behavior, so they can use those Bucks
to spend at the Lindsay Store. The following year, Ms. Byrd-Wright expanded the
usage of the Lindsay Bucks, so now they can use
them for field trips, staff and student
activities, dances. And Mr. Diggs
started an auction, so they can also use
there Bucks at an auction to bid for items. That’s a very positive thing, and it’s a very good
experience for me, as well. – Is that connected to the
Math grant that you received, or is that something separate? – That is something separate. Before I end, I want
to say that Lindsay, if I had one word
to describe Lindsay, it would be family. I love Lindsay Middle School. And I hope I don’t ever
have to leave there. I love it, I love it, I love it. – I think they love
you too. (laughs) – But, the grant, that was something
that I had applied for, because I’ve always been
interested in a study of non-traditional and
traditional instruction. The program that I did,
through that grant, I was teaching math at the time, and my co-teacher was Ms. Wells. So, we divided up the classroom. She had the control group, and
I had the experimental group. So, she taught the
traditional way, and I taught the
non-traditional way, using STEM activities. We, basically,
introduced the concepts, basically the same, but then, she would move on
to traditional activities, and I would go on to
do the STEM activities. For example, one concept was histograms. We had to learn all
about histograms. When they first walked
into this program, they became CEOs, and I reminded them
of that, every day, they were CEOs of a
consultant company. The activity with
the histograms, the company wanted
to know the best way to design a glider, to go the furthest distance. So, they all designed gliders, and we went out,
and we tested them, about four or five trials, and they recorded the findings. Then they had to go back and develop a histogram, then record the findings
on the histogram, and then read the histogram. So, they learned a lot of
things with that activity, which was to
develop a histogram, to read it, to
record data on it, and most of all, to know that histograms go
way beyond the classroom. And that was the
name of the program. It was “Math, Above,
Below, and Beyond”. So, they got to learn that the things that they’re
learning in Math class, it’s not just for the classroom. Those are things you’re
gonna have to learn, or have to use in life. – So, creating those
real-world connections. – Yes, absolutely. – Tell us, what is your
favorite part of teaching, or your favorite thing
about teaching, and why? – That’s a good question, because I love every
aspect of teaching. It’s just what I do. It’s my favorite thing to do. It’s what I love. So, there’s not one
particular thing, that I can think of. It’s those moments where you’re teaching
the student something, and you teach it over,
and over, and over again, and they’re just not getting it. And then they have
an aha moment. “Oh, I understand now!” Oh that, for a teacher, is rejoicing. And those moments when
you have the shy student, like with the program, with the grant program? I had a student in there who was very, very quiet. You never heard her speak. But, by the middle
of the program, she started raising
her hand like this to answer questions. But that was an
improvement for her. She was coming out of herself. She was participating. Things like that, you look
forward to, as a teacher. And then you have those
students who are very talented, and you pick up on that talent. Like, currently
there’s two students who are very good writers. One student is doing
a book, a comic book, and I saw it, he
shared it with me. Another student shared
her poems with me. So, I told them, because I have
a published children’s book, “Complete that”. I encouraged them
to complete it, because I’m gonna help
them publish them. And they’re elated, and
so am I, about that. Then you have the students that have troubles outside of school, and they’re going
through some things. And they confide in you, they trust you, and so you take those
opportunities to guide them, to be positive, so that, in life,
when they grow up, they can help guide
somebody else, out of the situations
that they’re in, so all of that is what
a teacher’s all about, and it’s worth
every minute of it. – Somehow you find time,
outside of teaching, and the Drama
class, and so forth, to work on a project
called FAVOR? – FAVOR. – Can you tell us a
little bit about that? – Yes. I established Favor in
honor of my husband. It’s actually called
“Michael Js FAVOR”. I named it “FAVOR”,
because he was a helper. Any time of night, day, if he could do it, he’s
gonna do it for you. In fact, that’s how he died. He was trying to
help his secretary, who was being
victimized by a gunman. So, they struggled over the gun, and he and the secretary ended up getting killed. But I wanted to
carry on his legacy, so FAVOR stands for Firearm
Victims Organization. And what we do is award
scholarships to seniors. We started out doing it for
victims of violent crime. Now, we have extended
it to all seniors. One of the criterias,
if you’re not a victim, is to write an essay of how you can decrease
gun violence. That’s what that
organization is about, just to promote positivity. We’re also doing mentoring now, and we want to expand it
to promote youth’s talents. That way, they can
do positive things, and stay off the streets. – It’s clear to me that you
truly care for the students, not only in the classroom, but their well-being
outside of school, which I’m sure was
a great indicator, or a reason that
you were selected as Teacher of the Year. So, tell us, what’s
next with you? What are your aspirations? – Well, there are
several things. I want to add more
programs with FAVOR, but the other thing
I would like to do is develop a program for struggling students ,or
students with special needs. It’s a resource program. Something that reinforces what they are learning
in the classroom. Because, as a teacher, I see that some students,
because of the rigor, because of the time in
getting ready for testing, they need a little bit more. They need a little
bit more time. They need a little bit
more repetitiveness in learning those skills. So, I want to do it
in line with STEM. STEM activities, as
I did with the grant. This is also aligned
with my PhD program, that I am in, right now. I want that to be a
part of my dissertation, the topic of my dissertation. Hopefully, once I get
through the PhD program, I will be able to establish
this program for these students. – Well, best wishes to
you in the PhD program, as well as trying
to develop a program to add a little bit more
support for our students. Thanks for coming on today. Congratulations to you. Is there anything else
that you’d like to share? – There is one more thing. At Lindsay, I have been graciously
invited to be a part of a literacy project, to promote literacy. It is called Reading Quest 1636. And it’s piloted
by Emily Dillard. What we’re trying to do, our goal is to get books, 1,636 of them, and we’re involving the
community to donate them, so be looking for advertisement about
that, next month. We’re promoting reading. With that project, we will be donating
books to shelters, libraries, hospitals,
and ultimately, we want to send some overseas. So, that is a
really good project. That is coming up in January, so I did want to share that. In light of the
holidays coming up, there’s one more thing
I’d like to share. Are you ready? – I’m ready! ♪ Though it’s been said ♪ Many times, many ways ♪ Merry Christmas, to ♪ To you ♪ – Thank you, beautiful! Thanks for joining us. – Thank you. – And thanks for
watching Wired In. Have a great week. (upbeat techno music)

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