Vicki Jackson, an Algebra 1 and Geometry teacher at Oak Mountain High School, was honored December 2 by the Shelby County Board of Education and the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation as the 2021 High School Teacher of the Year.
Jackson has been teaching in Shelby County for 17 years, including 14 years at Oak Mountain Middle and the past two-and-a-half years at Oak Mountain High. Jackson is a National Board Certified teacher who was honored in 2016 as the Shelby County Middle School Teacher of the Year and as a Jacksonville State University Teacher Hall of Fame finalist. She serves on the Shelby County National Board Certified Teachers Leadership Team and is a mentor to national board candidates. She also serves on the Shelby County Algebra 1 Curriculum Committee and as a Professional Learning Committee leader for Algebra I.
Jackson said a lesson that defines her teaching style is one where she instructs students on measurement, perimeter, area, and surface area by having the students build tiny houses. After doing direct instruction and cooperative learning to teach the basics of the material, Jackson shows the students an episode of “Tiny House, Big Living” on the HGTV Network and allows them to use an online website called Floorplanner to build 3D homes and make a blueprint.
Jackson said these types of lessons force students to dig deep into problem solving, design, reasoning, and planning to execute the vision of their home. As a teacher, she is able to see that the students actually understand the math behind their calculations and demonstrate a depth of knowledge by investigating, applying, and creating a product based not only on the parameters she provides them but also their imagination.
“Through this project, I didn’t just see students in my classroom. I saw future engineers, interior designers, contractors, architects and so much more,” she said. “I saw real engagement, grit, and resilience when their plans did not work and they needed to start again.”
One of the most important projects that Jackson has been involved with at OMHS is a group called the Young Women’s Club, which she started to empower and educate young women through mentoring. The group meets twice a month to discuss different topics such as college and career, dating safely, goal setting, community service, financial literacy, and so much more.
“Although it is open to all the young ladies in our student body, I quickly saw which students began showing up to my classroom – mostly minorities,” she said. “This showed me that there was a need that I could help fulfill. As an African-American teacher (and mother), I know that representation matters.”
Jackson said she has seen these young women soar and make their mark on the school. Their school attendance is better, as well as academic performance. The students are also part of many clubs, including SGA, show choir, band, athletic training, flag football, and PALS, and peer helpers to name a few.
“They have plans for the future, whether college or career,” Jackson said of the students. “More than anything, they have a desire to mentor younger girls!” Jackson said. “That’s the best part. They found value in our mentoring group and they want to invest in others the way there were invested into by their teachers and mentors.”