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Staff Focus: Derek Jackson, Second Grade Teacher, Gorman Crossing Elementary School

April 24th, 2018

“It takes a village to raise a child” and “never ever give up, there shall be brighter days” are two mantras that ring true for Gorman Crossing Elementary School second grade teacher Derek Jackson, who found his adoptive family from the foster care system. Jackson, a first year teacher, explained that he’s a product of a strong, supportive village, with his adoptive mom at the forefront. Additionally, “regardless of how today turns out, tomorrow is a new day and beginning, when we can make different choices and make a difference for someone else.”

Jackson was born in Baltimore City and bounced around foster families for a few years, until he found his adoptive family in Towson at the age of 8. He credits his adoptive family with getting him on track with school and went on to study psychology at Bowie State University. At the time, he was interested in becoming a child psychologist after having positive counseling experiences that helped him work through family issues at a young age.

However, with his mom a preacher and recreation director in Howard County, Jackson started getting involved in a variety of camp, sports and childcare roles, and soon discovered his love of teaching kids. While still in college, he landed at Gorman Crossing as a before- and after-care aid, recess monitor and substitute teacher, and he has never left since. After graduation, he joined Gorman Crossing full time as a special education paraeducator as he earned teaching credentials and a master’s from Towson University.

Gorman Crossing Principal Deborah Holmes said, “It was a no brainer to hire Derek as a first year teacher. He is a person who just wants to learn, which he models to the kids and other staff members. All he’s trying to do is make someone’s life just a little better. He’s constantly looking for the positive. That’s how he lives life.” In turn, Jackson is grateful for Gorman Crossing, where he feels staff members pushed him to become a teacher and supported him during challenges in his life. In short, “I couldn’t leave here. I’m a Gorman Gator always,” Jackson said.

Jackson remains heavily involved in the school and community, understanding his opportunity to be a role model for students. Jackson said, “Other children who see me, they see an African-American male teaching. I know a lot of people who look like me don’t see that. African-American children can see me teaching and want to do that.”

Beyond watching his students grow, Jackson enjoys “the fact that I’m giving back. If I had stayed in my situation in Baltimore City, I would have been a different statistic. I’m giving back for what my family and friends did for me, knowing I’m helping to provide a better future for others.”

Jackson’s connections with kids go beyond the classroom. He’s a flag football site manager, head referee, basketball coach and mentor on top of being a teacher and father to two young daughters.