New Teacher Mr. Jackson Takes Up World History Class At Community


In June of last year, students at Community High School signed up to take first semester World History and Geography with Sarah Roldan. On the first day of school, they found Marcia Schaffer teaching the class instead. Now, several weeks into the school year, they have finally begun settling into class with their permanent teacher, Mr. Brandon Jackson.

“Community High School had an opening for a history position,” explained CHS Dean Jen Hein, “because Ms. Roldan was returned back to Huron High School by the district. And Mr. Jackson still needed a partial assignment, so the district is having him fill that here.”

Added Hein, “The folks who have the least amount of seniority have the most vulnerability to being moved in the district.” This lack of seniority was the reason Roldan went from teaching part time at both Huron and Community last year to teaching only at Huron this year, and why Jackson now faces a daily commute between the two schools.

At Huron, Jackson coordinates the school’s Rising Scholars Program, which works to close the achievement gap in Ann Arbor Public Schools. “What we find is that African American students and Hispanic students traditionally aren’t taking the higher level, rigorous courses that are offered in Ann Arbor Public Schools,” explained Jackson. “Those courses reduce [future college] tuition for students, and they also provide opportunities in life to go to more advanced colleges of higher education and learning.”

In addition to getting students into AP or AC courses, Rising Scholars also encourages students to explore what Jackson calls their “areas of greatness.” He believes that all students have the potential to excel at something, and encourages students to embrace their own greatness in academics, sports, arts, or other activities. “The great thing about Ann Arbor Public Schools is that they provide those opportunities,” he said. “I just think that sometimes, the staff don’t connect the students with the opportunities.”

So far, the Rising Scholars program has been implemented in the district’s main three high schools: the program at Pioneer services 50 students, Skyline 90, and Huron a whopping 110. However, both Jackson and Hein say that Jackson has not been sent to Community to set up a fourth branch of the program.

“[Mr. Jackson] is really here to teach two sections of World History,” stated Hein.“We are interested in the achievement of all kids here in the building… Everybody has the same goal: all kids achieving at the highest level they possibly can. So we welcome him; he’s a great addition to the Community staff.”

Because CHS doesn’t offer AP classes, a potential Rising Scholars program at the school would have to be implemented differently. Still, there are always possibilities. “I would like to work with the administration to make sure we service all of our students,” said Jackson.

Added Hein, “We can always work with students to help them accelerate, and let them know that taking the AP exam is an option for them, if they’re interested in doing it.”

Jackson grades World History homework at his desk.

Transitioning between the very different environments of Huron and Community has been a bit of a culture shock for Jackson. One obvious difference between the schools is the form of address: at Huron and the other mainstream schools, students refer to teachers by their last names, but at Community, it’s considered normal for teachers to be called by their first names. Still, Jackson will continue to be called by his title, Mr. Jackson, rather than his given name, Brandon.

“We had a class vote [on what to call me],” explained Jackson. “I like to work with the students, and what I found was that most of the students wanted Mr. Jackson.”

Jackson is still working part time at Huron, so being Mr. Jackson at Community will also make his life more consistent. “I’d like for everybody to sort of be on one accord,” he explained.

Jackson’s interest in history, especially history teaching, stemmed from the experiences of his adopted father, who despite his love of history, nearly failed the course because of conflict with a social studies teacher.Jackson said that this story has had a big impact on his teaching career. “It allowed me to understand that relationships with teachers are vital.”

Now that he is teaching at CHS, Jackson is optimistic about the year. “I have been impressed with the intelligence and support and the overwhelming morale of the Community students,” he said. “I think they’ve made this an excellent transition, so I just want to come and do my best with the students of Community.”