The first-grade teacher at Dunwoody Springs Elementary School in Sandy Springs recently completed a Teacher Ambassador Fellowship, a competitive program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.
“It is the ultimate professional development [experience] in all aspects, so I thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Dawkins-Jackson.
The yearlong initiative took Dawkins-Jackson on an information-gathering and education VIP tour of sorts around the country.
The fellowship’s aim is to improve education for students by involving teachers in the development and implementation of national education policy.
The program seeks to create a community of “teacher leaders” who share expertise and collaborate with policymakers and leaders in the federal government on national education issues, said fellowship Director Gillian Cohen-Boyer.
“It was a very hands-on thing,” said Dawkins-Jackson. “Our team started working on July 31 of last year. … The bus tour took us to southern California, the East Coast and places in between.
“It was great to be able to provide a teacher’s voice at the federal level.”
Although popularity in the program is surging — based on increasing number of applicants — its gatekeepers remains highly selective.
Dawkins-Jackson was among 800 educators to apply and be vetted for the recently expired fellowship cycle. Only 12 of them were chosen to participate.
Perhaps Dawkins-Jackson’s unorthodox yet highly effective teaching style is what put her over the top.
A teacher at Dunwoody Springs for the past decade, her use of different modalities of learning — including music, movement and integrated technology — has earned much praise and netted just as many results.
“I’m also more of a facilitator than a direct teacher,” said Dawkins-Jackson. “I’m really just expanding the idea of what school can be.
“I guide [students’] learning and really try to push them beyond their limits. … I believe it is very important to have high expectations for all children, no matter their demographic.”
As for the Teaching Ambassador Fellowship, Dawkins-Jackson declined to speak of the experience in past tense.
“The [fellowship] motto is ‘Once a fellow, always a fellow,’” she said. “So, you’re never really gone. … It’s always a part of you.”