Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

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May 12, 2014

Special time for longtime educator — Among the many veteran educators in Pauls Valley calling it a career when this school year ends is Theola Jackson.

Jackson has decided the time is now to call it quits after nearly four decades of teaching in a PV classroom and most recently serving as the director of the local alternative education program.

There are sure to be plenty of fond memories as she soon embarks on her next learning adventure.

“All of it, my entire career has been in Pauls Valley,” Jackson said during a casual chat from her alternative ed office.

“It’s been a fun ride, but it’s time,” she said. “You know when it’s time for someone with newer, fresher ideas to come in and run with it.”

That’s why Jackson has chosen to retire after a 38-year career as a teacher or school administrator in Pauls Valley.

Set to come in as her replacement is PVHS art teacher Bobby Reeves, who gets a big thumbs up from Jackson.

“I think they made a good choice. Bobby will do an excellent job.”

It all got started for Jackson when she studied education at East Central University in Ada, where she earned a degree in special education.

Even before she graduated she was working in the classroom right here in PV.

Jackson did her student teaching with mentally and physically challenged students at Hilltop, which at the time was part of the local Southern Oklahoma Resource Center.

Then came a job offer, which kept her right here in Pauls Valley.

“I started in 1976 fresh out of college,” Jackson said, adding it was as a special education teacher at Jefferson School, which at the time was for fourth and fifth grade students.

She continued her work in the special education classrooms at both Lee, which then housed middle school students, and the local high school.

All of it, she says with a smile, was a special time because of her students.

“I loved it. I liked working with students that really need you,” Jackson said.

“They are sort of underdogs. You can’t help but love them.”

Jackson also went with local students who traveled to Special Olympics events all over the state.

Then came a new opportunity for Jackson, this time as the director of the PV Alternative Academy.

The program was originally housed in what’s now the renovated junior high building. It later moved to a site on the east side of town before going to its present home in a converted portion of the local high school.

She knows it’s common for people to have very little knowledge about what the alternative education program really does.

“I’ve had so many kids come through here,” she said. “A lot of people think here at the alternative academy these are the bad kids and they’re not.

“These are the kids that don’t fit into the regular classroom settings. They may have issues that are preventing their attendance in a regular classroom.

“They’re intelligent young people, but for whatever is going on in their lives it prevents them from performing or attending classes.”

She says it’s fairly typical for these students to miss enough classes where they get too far behind.

It’s often difficult if not impossible for them to catch up in their studies, so they turn to the alternative education program offered at the academy.

“Alternative ed allows them to work at their own pace,” Jackson said. “We can move them along quicker than in a regular classroom

“We get really neat kids that come through here. I’ve learned something from just about everyone who has come through here.

“They’ve touched my life.”

Many of those same students come back years later for a visit with Jackson, sometimes bringing their own kids.

For now Jackson is ready to go “home.” She’s originally from Spencer in the Oklahoma City metro area.

She has no plans for the immediate future other than to enjoy retirement.

“I’ll do whatever I want to do,” she said. “Most of my family is in the Oklahoma City area.

“I don’t plan on getting another job. I’ll just enjoy myself.”

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