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Post Foundation Educator Of Year
To Put Money Prize Into Freedom Writers Program
Published Sunday, September 14, 2008
by Ellison Clary, For The Foundation

CHARLOTTE – For the $1,000 she won as The Charlotte Post Foundation’s educator of the year, Sophia Jackson has several ideas, all geared toward helping students excel.

Sophia Jackson

At the International Studies School at Garinger High, she’s heavily involved in Freedom Writers, a program that encourages students to communicate about life challenges and develop critical thinking.  

When the fall semester starts, Jackson plans to use her $1,000 Post grant to buy a projector and copies of “The Freedom Writers Diaries” as well as teacher manuals. These materials will help her expand the Garinger Freedom Writers into a campus-wide club.

Jackson will be honored as educator of the year on September 20 at the Bank of America “Post Best” banquet put on for the 12th year by The Charlotte Post newspaper. There she will be presented with The Wachovia Foundation Teacher of the Year award.

“Everyone I spoke with for advice pointed me toward Sophia Jackson,” said Gerald Johnson, publisher of The Charlotte Post. “She has won several other honors and we are proud to add to her accolades.”  

“I care about neglected children,” Jackson said. “Neglected doesn’t mean anything negative. It just means overlooked. I take special enjoyment in watching a low-performing student reach his or her potential in a way that surprises only that student. This involves educating the whole child, academically, socially and emotionally. Teaching is truly a work of the heart.”

Jackson said The Charlotte Post Foundation award confirms what she tells her students: “Be careful what you do. People are always watching.”

Recently promoted to academic facilitator, this fall Jackson will join the staff of Garinger High, a Leadership and Public Service School led by Principal Aimee Nichols. In her new role, Jackson will help other teachers and continue to teach an English class. She has been the International Studies School English Department chair since 2006.  

Jackson, a single parent, said the award is also for her 14-year-old daughter Dejah Gilliam, who has been accepted in the East Mecklenburg High International Baccalaureate program. She also is a member of the East Mecklenburg Marching Band Color Guard.

With the honor it is giving her, Jackson said, The Charlotte Post is telling Dejah that her mom’s hard work is paying off.

“Dejah’s mom has been rewarded for all those nights and days that Dejah has had to share with other students,” Jackson said.

After finishing Johnson C. Smith University and attending Queens University of Charlotte, Jackson worked as a corporate recruiter before joining the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System in 2001.

Jackson was one of 21 educators selected by CMS for this summer’s Teaching Fellows Institute at Charlotte 2008 symposium. She also was a finalist for the CMS Harris Teacher of the Year this spring. In 2007, she was handpicked by Freedom Writers founder Erin Gruwell to receive a $10,000 scholarship to Freedom Writers Institute Training.

She has taught debate at the Hawthorne Concurrent Program five nights a week.
She is a mentor and advisor for Right Moves For Youth, a community organization dedicated to dropout prevention. She is a Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) coach and teacher and was nominated for the SIOP Coach of the Year Award.

Jackson attends University Park Baptist Church and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, the North Carolina Association of Educators, the Classroom Teachers Association and the National Educators Association.

Jackson thanked her fellow teachers at Garinger and CMS administrators for their support. She also thanked her students.

She’s often reminded, she said, “It’s all about the children.”


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