Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series profiling principals in the Elmore County School System.
Middle school is a time of transition for students. During these years, students leave behind the structure of elementary school and begin to take a serious look at their futures, while preparing for the rigors of high school and life after graduation. With her 21 years in education serving at virtually every level, Wetumpka Middle School Principal Tremeca Jackson believes her experiences have been highly beneficial to helping her better make the school the best it can be.
“I know what it’s like at all levels,” Jackson said. “We have to understand the middle school child. This can be a confusing time, and we have to help them develop.”
Jackson describes herself as being a firm but fair principal, wanting to make sure all of her students succeed, no matter what they may go on to do in life. As a way to make sure everyone is on the same page in this regard, there are several key things she works hard to make sure her teachers and staff understand every day.
“I want them to understand this is a safe and nurturing place for our students,” Jackson said. “We have to remember, for some kids, this may be all they have.”
As Jackson wants to ensure Wetumpka Middle School provides a safe and positive learning environment with a focus on learning for all students, she said she and teachers hold conferences with their students on a regular basis, discussing goals for the students to reach and help them better understand why they are learning what they are learning. At the same time, she said it is important to hold students accountable for their actions in order to help them develop into productive citizens.
Among the tools the school has at its disposal to better prepare its students for the future is a complete set of Google Chromebooks. Jackson was proud to say Wetumpka Middle School was fully a one-to-one school, with each student having his or her own device to complete assignments on. Teachers have their own technology to enhance the learning environment, while students are educated on being good digital citizens.
“We are equipping our students to thrive in our technologically-based world,” Jackson said. “We don’t want technology to replace our teachers, we want it to enhance the learning process.”
While Jackson said her experiences teaching and being an administrator at the elementary, middle and high school levels have all been beneficial to her and how she oversees the school, this has not been the only source of experience she has drawn upon.
“I was a military brat, so I spent time overseas as a child,” Jackson said, explaining how living abroad showed her the value of diversity and appreciating different cultures and ethnicities. As principal, she has worked to help her students understand and appreciate these same values.
Although Jackson works to make Wetumpka Middle School a model school, she said there are several challenges and issues the school has to work to overcome.
“Communication is the biggest thing,” Jackson said. “Student apathy can be an issue at times, especially at the higher grades. Parental involvement is sometimes a concern. Many of our parents are involved, though.”
Looking to overcome these challenges, Jackson said teachers and staff come up with various strategies designed to keep students motivated, such as reminding those interested in athletics how good grades are paramount to being able to continue to play their respective sport. Groups like Jackson’s Powwow Group give students and teachers alike the chance to voice their concerns on school topics, as well as share ideas on how to solve these problems.
While there are many challenges Jackson said the school faces, she said working in education is highly rewarding. This holds especially true, she said, when students she taught or served as an administrator for in the past come back to her and tell or show her how they have gone on to be successful in their lives, especially those she knew with disciplinary issues in school.
“It’s rewarding to see them grow and come back to me and tell me about it,” Jackson said. “It’s worth all those difficult days.”