Reading, Writing and Understanding

Model students are a teacher’s dream. They raise their hands, they do their homework and they actively participate in class. For some students, this is not their story, and it can be easy to write them off as trouble. But, for Marcie Jackson,
discovering the story behind the behavior of such children is key to helping them find a happier ending.

Marcie has been teaching for three years at Howard Middle School in Mansfield and has been unofficially tapped as a
person with a special knack for working with students who may have circumstances in their lives which affect their education.

Originally from Fort Worth, Marcie attended Prairie View A&M University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in education and interdisciplinary studies and a master’s degree in counseling. At Howard, she teaches eighth-grade language
arts and a seventh-grade leadership class, designed to prepare them for entering the workforce and college, while also teaching leadership characteristics.

Often, those who grow up to be teachers were influenced by a family member or a teacher they had growing up. For Marcie, she just always had a desire to work with children. “I always wanted to work with kids because I enjoy giving back to the community,” she said. “I don’t really have a fairy-tale story — I just wanted to work with kids. I love working with them.”

Any teacher can attest to the fact that their calling involves much more than teaching. Often, problems or issues at home can severely affect a child’s behavior. Working with students who may have trouble coping with home problems and school is part of the reason Marcie feels so strongly about being there for them. Before moving back to North Texas, Marcie worked with children in a poverty stricken area of Houston. There, she realized her passion and love was for the children, first and foremost. Working in a school where 92 percent of the students were disadvantaged showed her that many times, “problem” children were dealing with very grown-up situations. And though Mansfield is not considered a disadvantaged area, students in the district are not immune to negative variables, which affect their learning. “I grew up in a kind of poverty-stricken area, and I just know how many kids need someone to talk to. They need help. And I’ve always wanted to give back,” Marcie said. “That’s what made me go back and get my master’s in counseling. I’m more used to working with students who have family issues; kids who don’t have anywhere to stay — where parents may be doing their own thing, and the kid’s were being the mother and father of the house.”

As the city of Mansfield grows and more students enter the district, Marcie feels it is extremely important that the school district be prepared to work with students who may not have the optimum home life. “I see disadvantaged kids, but to me, they are looked over,” she said. “Our school will be Title 1 next year. The issues are there and they need to be addressed.” A Title 1 school is provided with federal funds that aim to bridge the gap between at-risk students and
those not considered at-risk. Money is used to enhance schools, by purchasing technology tools, for example.

As for her methods of working with some of her students and trying to be a positive influence, Marcie does not have an innovative new way of working them you might read about in any book. She simply listens. “If you don’t have a relationship with the child, how are you going to teach them?” she said. “So many students are sent to me because I build a relationship with them. Respect and having a relationship are the two things that I require and that I work toward.” Through her school, Marcie has established a nonprofit organization called Shaping Her Attitude While Developing Essentials for Success (SHADES). “In this school, starting a nonprofit organization was really good,” she said. “I have 25 girls, and about 10 to 12 of them live in disadvantaged situations. Having them being active and involved works. Some people don’t want to do sports, but want to be involved in something. We have times where we sit around and talk and get things off our chests — that helps, too.

Just talking to them and making them feel that someone cares — really cares — that’s big with those kids.” Meetings are held after school, and the students involved also perform community service projects. Marcie understands she may not be able to reach every single student who crosses her path and may need that extra dose of attention. However, for the ones she does reach, it is gratifying when they see her again and have turned their lives around. Even more, she wants those who are thinking of working with disadvantaged children to heed a few words of advice. “Understand that every child is unique,” she explained. “Once you understand every child is unique and comes from a different background, you learn not to judge them for where they come from, but just help them to be better.”

— Written by Katrina D. McNair