By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
From 1994 until 2016, Rita Jackson served the parents, children, and teachers of Limestone County as a teacher, librarian, media specialist, school counselor, and a proxy principal. Rita was either a student, taught in, counseled students, or was a substitute teacher at four schools in the county, and as such is uniquely qualified to serve the Limestone County Public Schools as the District 4 School Board representative.
Here is what she says about herself and her experience, and most importantly, why she is running for the position:
There are people who feel that their experience can lead to ideas that build futures for our youth if given the opportunity to be elected to an office. That is the reason why I am running for Limestone County Board of Education, District 4. As a retired professional educator, I feel that my experience as a parent of 4, grandparent of 10, classroom teacher since ‘94, as well as a guidance counselor, librarian, and even sitting in as a proxy administrator in my principal’s absence will provide perspective from multiple viewpoints to serve well. In addition, I will listen to the ideas of the folks in District 4 and bring those ideas to the Board. One of my favorite quotes is that of Helen Keller; “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
Born and raised in Limestone County, always living in District 4, Jackson, her husband Billy, and their children were products of the LCS system. Serving 14 of her 25+ years as an educator in Limestone County, Rita taught school and Billy still drives a bus for LCS. She was raised by her parents, Otis & Opal Sanders, and attended school in Elkmont till the ‘70s re-zoning mandate. She attended Owens and then graduated from West Limestone in ’76. As business owners, Rita and Billy pumped their share of gas as they continued her daddy’s service-oriented legacy by running their own service station in Northtown (North Athens), as he did. While busy with this, Rita began college in the ‘90s. Believing family to be the most important, Jackson waited till her youngest child began kindergarten to start college herself. She finished Calhoun and ASU in 3.5 years while tutoring fellow students in the ASU Writing Center. Initially hired by LCS in 1994 as a substitute teacher, Rita began her certified teaching experience as an English/Spanish teacher at Ardmore HS, and taught there until 2001. She taught at West Limestone till 2008. Earning master certification in school counseling, library media, and English, she worked at Piney Chapel and Johnson Elementary Schools as a counselor. She also served in the Morgan, Giles, and Colbert County school systems. Many of the families in District 4 are former students that either she taught or who rode Billy’s school bus.
Jackson said further, “Our students deserve the very best education that our schools can provide, so our administrators and teachers must be equipped with the tools they need, and keep lines of communication open between home and school.”
Jackson believes that a mentoring/advisor program (as an extension of the guidance office) can provide a confidante/role-model for each student while at school, and provide life lessons that make productive, lifelong learners. “It takes all kinds of professions to make a functioning society: lessons learned through the classroom, through vocational/technical education, through college-prep for some, as well as through sports and extra-curricular activities,” she said. All four Jackson kids (Brody, Brianna, Brandon, and Will) were year-round athletes, so she feels strongly about sports programs and how good coaches can positively influence kids. Limestone County Schools offer all of this with great schools, competent teachers, caring administrators, and includes an outstanding vocational/tech program.
Ideas that Jackson would love to implement include: the aforementioned mentoring program which would offer contact with parents via technology on a weekly basis, testing teams at the district level to allow more individual and large group guidance, and duty-free lunches for teachers. This would provide more principal, assistant principal, and SRO role-model interaction with students during meals. In addition, she wants to see teachers have the freedom to express more creativity in the classroom with less teaching-to-a-test and fewer paper trails. She wants to secure funds to start up a drug-prevention program in cooperation with local law enforcement, and encourage more service-related projects for students through club or extra-curricular activities. High on her list is keeping open lines of communication between the central office, administrators, superintendent, and parents.
If elected, Jackson hopes to provide a voice for District 4 families, students, teachers, and administrators by being present during PTO meetings and listening to the concerns of all. She wants easily-accessible technology available to parents, and will gather ideas from other systems as to what is working well during this unprecedented challenge of COVID. Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope and confidence. Helen Keller.
If this is what you are looking for in a school board member, then Rita Jackson would appreciate your vote on November 3.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner