When she was a child, Tracy Henshaw-Jackson would sit with her stuffed animals in a circle and teach them lessons on a green chalkboard.
With a notebook in her hand, she would give her make-believe students lesson plans and homework assignments.
“I taught teddy bears and baby dolls and all kinds of stuff,” said Henshaw-Jackson, who has turned her childhood dream into a career in education.
The veteran educator, who has 24 years of experience, is ready to bring her love of teaching to students at Parkview Elementary School in Meridian.
Henshaw-Jackson is taking on the role as principal of Parkview from Angela McQuarley, who served a dual role as the head adminstrator at Parkview and Magnolia Middle School.
'I will educate our children'
Henshaw-Jackson said she is the only one from her family to become a teacher. Other members of her family became doctors and nurses.
“I told them 'you take care of the sick and the elderly, I will educate our children',” she said.
Henshaw-Jackson's first job in education was as a teaching assistant in Gulfport. She's also taught at the middle and high school levels, worked as an assistant principal and principal and as a district administrator.
For the last two years, Henshaw-Jackson, who has a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Mississippi, has worked in the Mississippi Delta.
Her former assistant, Tamara Jenkins described Henshaw-Jackson as someone who cared about her students, inspiring them to graduate from high school.
"She got the graduating class together, a lot of kids graduated because of Dr. J.," Jenkins said.
Henshaw-Jackson said even though she's a principal, she still considers herself a teacher.
At Parkview, Henshaw said her first goal is getting to know the parents and the school community, by going door to door. She wants to complete that task before the first day of classes.
“If I'm planning to make this home for me, then I want to be involved with the community who've lived here all their lives,” she said.
Henshaw-Jackson said another goal is to increase parental involvement. She wants parents to be on the same page when she calls them, she said.
“I want their child to be successful like they want their child to be successful,” she said.
During the transition period, she has plenty of support from McQuarley, who has helped her get ready for the new school year. She also had support from Amy Carter, the district’s superintendent.
“We are excited to have Dr. Jackson at Parkview this year," Carter said in an email. “I look forward to seeing her build on the foundation laid by Mrs. McQuarley and the Parkview team.”
As she settles in at Parkview, Henshaw-Jackson said the reason why she's still in education is because she loves children and the impact she can make in their lives.
"Once I've had contact with you and you have been in any part of my life, I really want to follow you and make sure you are being successful," she said.