School & District Management Opinion

Twists and Turns on the Road to Where I Am Today

By Learning Forward — November 11, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Deborah Jackson

People who know me realize how passionate I am about education, and that’s been true for a long time. However, my pathway to where I am now hasn’t been entirely predictable. At times, I have found myself at a crossroads where I had to make a choice. Every turn has led me to where I am today, even though I didn’t exactly map it all out from the start. Here are a few of the more surprising moments in my life and how they got me to where I am.

When I went to college, I didn’t prepare for a career in education. I loved history and politics and envisioned going to law school so I could champion a cause I believed in. As it turns out, education was my cause. Through my experience tutoring young people at church, I realized how much I loved teaching. When I had a pause in my professional career to give birth to my daughter, I took that time to get a teaching certificate -- and I was off on a new path.

This love of teaching and the impact I could have kept me exhilarated. I couldn’t imagine myself outside of a classroom. Then a former area superintendent planted a seed in my brain when he asked if I had ever considered a leadership position. I hadn’t -- until that moment. As that seed took root, I considered how my impact might spread, and I pursued an administrator endorsement.

With that qualification in hand, I was able to say yes when a principal offered me my first leadership position as an assistant principal. That position, and her high expectations, helped me understand a leader’s responsibility for and impact on the learning of everyone in a school, from the new student to the veteran teacher to the engaged parent.

I began to realize how lucky I was as a teacher to have principals who believed that all teachers must learn continuously. We work hard at Learning Forward to instill this belief in all educators: Learning is continuous for all and an absolute for us in the field of education. I was fortunate that my supervisors and mentors lived that motto.

My journey through more progressive leadership positions allowed me to continue my passion for teaching. I strived to create supportive learning contexts for adults and refined my focus as an advocate for children who might not have other champions.

As principal of a progressive high school, I was settled and pleased with the impact I was having on my students and community. I was there for the long haul. Then came the opportunity to lead a team designing and implementing a new teacher and school-based administrator evaluation program. This led me to the central office, where I am a mentor/coach to other principals. And even though I couldn’t have predicted where I’d be right now, it seems like the most natural role in the world.

While I did not plan the twists I’ve taken on my leadership pathway, I do know this: I met the right people at the right times who helped me see something in myself, I was open to continuous learning, and I never lost my passion for education. I hope that, along the way, I’ve been that right person for someone else.

This post appears in the October 2015 issue of JSD.

Deborah Jackson,


Learning Forward Board of Trustees

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.