Forty years ago, Mary Jackson began her student teaching at Westchester when the Spring Branch ISD campus was still a high school. With the exception of one year, she has now spent all of her award-winning career at Stratford High School.
She is not finished yet. For her, Stratford is the perfect high school.
Calling this business and accounting teacher a Stratford America believer might be an understatement. When asked recently by new Principal Raymorris Barnes about her many years, she quipped, “When I retire, can I stand at the front door and greet people?”
Her love for Stratford may be only topped by her passion for teaching and kids, all made incredibly touching by an upbeat personality and an effervescent humor. She shares one teen-level response to hearing that she has taught for 40 years.
Matter of factly, that student told her, “They should name something after you – a school hall or a room – or maybe a bush!”
It would take a forest of bushes with dedication plaques to give appropriate credit to Jackson’s career.
She has earned Teacher of the Year honors at Stratford three separate times, and won SBISD Teacher of the Year in 2010. She has served as a student council advisor for many years, and was once named Student Council Advisor of the Year.
She was named Business Professionals of America (BPA) Texas Advisor of the Year, a state-level honor. Taking BPA students to competitive regional, state and national contests means more to Jackson than her own professional recognitions. Stratford students have gone to BPA’s national team contests eight times with Jackson.
One of her best-held memories was a four-student SHS team, with a middling group grade-point average, who won BPA trophies. “It’s not how smart you are, it’s how hard you work,” she told the astonished teen winners.
She now teaches only accounting, but has taught everything in the business field. It was manual typewriters when she started out, then electric machines, and “I did not think I’d be working with computers, but now my room is filled with them.”
She does not believe in teaching as a 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. job. She scoffs at teachers heading to the parking lot when the dismissal bell rings.
In a career that has included three adult children – all Stratford grads – Jackson has kept a two-calendar agenda. “I have the Jackson family calendar and the Stratford family calendar,” she says.
She is noted for her personal attention to students, decades of attending athletic games, choir and orchestra performances, anything beyond her own classroom. . Her personal interest has won her generations of student fans.
She now teaches the children of former students.
“It’s much more than teaching out of a textbook,” she says. “I’ll teach them how to do accounting, but I want to help them be good people, too. And to teach, you have to reach a person. If you can touch them in their lives, then you can teach them.”
In her 40 years at the school, Jackson has not missed attending any of the Stratford Playhouse plays.
"I love to see the student's doing what they love to do," she said.
Jackson stunned a recent set of students by writing them all little fan notes. “The class is my family. I tell kids, ‘You’re my children even if I did not give birth to you. So, you have to give it your all.' That’s about touching a kid’s life.”
It works. At a University of Texas-Rice baseball game where she taught two of the opposing players, she walked by the Rice warm-up pen area only to hear, “There’s my teacher!”