Henrico’s Top Teachers – Shahidah Jackson

Shahidah Jackson’s smile has been brightening Wilder Middle School since the school opened its doors for the first time in 1998.

Jackson is a physical education teacher at the school, but her influence extends well beyond gymnasium walls and playing fields, according to those who know her.

“She is always willing to help every student and teacher with any problems or needs that may arise,” a colleague wrote in a nomination letter. “Any time you walk by this teacher, she finds a way to put a smile on your face.”

Jackson fills her days with school-related activities that extend well beyond class hours.

As a cheerleading coach during nearly her entire tenure at Wilder, she has worked with students after school and has helped provide an outlet for some who might have chosen the wrong path otherwise.

“During tryouts, she makes a point to have someone on her team that some would consider ‘troublesome’ in school, and to keep this student on the right path throughout the school year,” a nominator wrote. “I feel that is tremendous dedication to the students, for many teachers try to avoid these students in our school. But Mrs. Jackson always finds the good in all of the students at Wilder.

“She tries to provide her cheerleaders with as many opportunities as possible by going out of her way to take these students to competitions and to provide team bonding times, even if it means opening the doors to her home.”

Jackson co-founded the school’s C.L.A.S.S.Y. organization (Creating Ladylike Attitudes for Sophistication and Success) for teenage girls. The club provides mentoring and life skills for its participants and is designed to develop strong citizens in and out of the classroom, while showing participants how they can have a positive impact on the community.

"At this level with students, all they need is someone that will show them attention and keep them motivated, grounded and give them encouragement to stay focused," Jackson says. "So each year, I challenge myself to help out as many students as possible. I feel rewarded each day when I enter the building and I am greeted with hugs and smiles. [It feels great] to know that the students feel that I genuinely care and love each one of them, and I get the same in return."

Jackson also is a frequent volunteer at other school events and serves as a sponsor for other clubs at Wilder as well.

In addition to her broad range of involvement at the school, colleagues also describe Jackson as an active volunteer away from school in the Eastern Henrico community.

“Everyone knows this teacher for her generosity, caring and relentless unselfish attitude,” one wrote. “Any time a student, teacher, or administration needs something, she never fails and is always there wherever needed.”
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The new exhibit “Wild Art: A Journey Off Canvas” will open at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and be on display through Oct. 1. This collaborative art experience inspired by nature combines the efforts of regional artists and thousands of Garden visitors to transform the Garden into a living tapestry of natural art. Included with Garden admission. For details, visit http://www.lewisginter.org. Full text

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