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Back to School in Jackson, Mississippi


by Nicholas Sella

“If I’m doing right by my child—I’m going to be doing right by all the children,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García praising the work of the PTA group at Brown Elementary in Jackson, Miss. on the second day of the Back to School Week Two Tour. The group of local parents and community members met with President García to discuss the importance of the entire community being an active part in the schools.

The group held their discussion in the “Parent and Community Center” room at Brown. It’s not often you see a place like this inside a school, but this community is invested in their students’ success, and in the public schools and teachers in Jackson.

While touring Brown, García was introduced to Ms. Ruby Butler, a librarian who is entering her final year at the school after nine years—and this is in addition to spending the previous 30 years working as an accountant outside of education. 

Butler transformed her classroom-size spaced into one of the most decorated and inviting libraries you’ll ever walk into—and the space wasn’t meant to be for a library. There were colorful rugs covering the floor, fun learning activities between the rows of bookshelves, and most importantly—plenty of books for the young readers.

President García was so blown away and inspired by Butler she plans to feature her on her blog, Lily’s Blackboard, in the near future.

After Brown, the Back to School Tour headed to John Hopkins Elementary for the final stop in Mississippi. Greeting García and the NEA staff at the front door was Mr. Benjamin, a school security education support professional (ESP) who keeps the students safe each day. Throughout the day, and the entire tour, García emphasized that it’s not only teachers who make a school great—but also the entire staff.

“John Hopkins is a great school with great people. Dr. Carrie Pillers (School Principal at John Hopkins) motivates everyone and it’s important to highlight the school and the great staff,” said Benjamin.

 As many know, García began her career as a lunch lady and it wouldn’t have been a full school tour without stopping by the cafeteria to talk with the staff. García chatted with Shelia Braddock who works in the Hopkins cafeteria. “I started as a lunch lady and I was important in the education of those students. I greeted them with a smile and made sure they had a good meal,” said García.

The day ended at Hopkins with a visit to the very special classroom of Damon Hoskins, who teaches Pre-Kindergarten. Mr. Hoskins’ classroom is what you wish every student in America got the opportunity to experience. There were interactive screens with learning games, tablets for the students, life-sized building blocks, computers, and much more to foster learning using technology and creativity.

The Back to School Week Two Tour will continue tomorrow in the Lafayette, La. area. Stay tuned for the recap!

Read more highlights from the 2015 Tour.

2015 NEA Back to School Tour Visits Mississippi

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