Jackson helps Five Points students grow

Published 7:20 am Thursday, May 7, 2020

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About four years ago, Cynthia Jackson was working at Opelika Learning Center and started to look for a change. She interviewed with then Principal Rhonda Givins and felt at home at Five Points School.

“It felt like the place I was supposed to be,” Jackson said. “I enjoyed the program out there that they were running. They appeared to be there for students and that was my whole goal.”

She was hired before the start of the 2015-16 school year and has been extremely happy with her decision.

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Jackson teaches English and Language Arts at Five Points School for the sixth through eighth grades. Her favorite part of the job is to see the students’ creativity come out during class through different stories and activities.

“Just watching their creativity come to life by the things that we sit down and talk about is exciting for me,” Jackson said. “For them to see how words interconnect and they begin to play with the language, it’s an excitement and renewal for me every year.”

Since she teaches middle schoolers, Jackson is able to watch her students change from children into the people they want to become.

“By the time they get to the eighth grade, they’re their own little person,” Jackson said. “ They know exactly who they want to be what they want to and what road map they’re going to take for life.”

Helping students figure out their road map is why Jackson became a teacher.

“I wanted to let kids know that you can be whatever you want to be,” Jackson said. “You just have to work hard at it.”

She was inspired by her fifth-grade teacher Mrs. Hubbard. Hubbard was the type of teacher that wasn’t afraid to let her students know that she didn’t have all the answers. When there was a question that she didn’t know, Hubbard and the student would figure out the answer together.

“At that time, I thought that I want to be that person. I want to let them [students] know that they can do anything and if they don’t know something, just look it up. It’ll be fun, and I wanted to make learning so much fun for them,” Jackson said. “I want them to enjoy coming to school. My goal is I want them to see it [school] as this is the place that I can learn, not this is a place that is going to be boring for seven and a half hours.”

Since Five Points School teaches kindergarten through eighth grade, students and teachers are able to build bonds years before they even step foot in that teacher’s classroom or years after they leave that class. It makes the school a family type of environment.

“The teachers are our family. The students are our family,” Jackson said. “It provides the respect that is needed and everyone holds each other accountable. It makes it a fun place to go every day. I don’t even see it as work.”

That family aspect of the school is evident in the halls throughout the year, but that extends to the time away from the classroom.

During the school year, Jackson was sick and had to miss some time before returning to work. Almost every day, students were sending her cards in the mail wishing her a speedy recovery and to get better soon.

Jackson credits Five Points principal Andrew Leak for the family environment.

“If you have great teachers, it’s because you have someone leading you and allowing you to be great,” Jackson said. “I want to give him his kudos because he has changed things so much. The school is much brighter because of him.”

When the students get into her classroom as sixth graders, they already know Jackson, but they don’t know her classroom expectations. Once they are able to adjust to those expectations, Jackson raises the bar, which continues through the seventh and eighth grades.

“You watch them grow because they mature and change every year. I love watching them exceed because they always want to exceed what I expect,” Jackson said.

Because of COVID-19, the final quarter of the school year has been done online, which is tough on teachers because they aren’t able to see the students every day. Jackson has been able to talk to her students through email and Google Classroom, but it is not the same as seeing the students every day in the halls.

“It’s hard missing them and not having the opportunity to say have a great summer and talk about some things they could have been doing in person,” Jackson said. “Just not seeing their smiling faces is a hard thing.”