Moriarty High School teacher gets national recognition

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former Moriarty High School teacher Peggy Jackson being interviewed by television crews. Photo by Leota Harriman.

They had to trick Peggy Jackson to get her to the surprise assembly in her honor at Moriarty High School last week—and the way they did that was by asking her to volunteer as a mentor.

Jackson said yes, no surprise to Moriarty-Edgewood School District’s outgoing superintendent, Tom Sullivan, when he explained the ruse used to lure Jackson to the high school.

Once there, Jackson was lavished with praise by the state’s public education secretary and other dignitaries—including the only other New Mexico teacher to be inducted to the National Teachers Hall of Fame, Pat Graff.

Graff was inducted in 2006; including Jackson, 130 teachers in the country have been included so far.

Pat Graff, left, with Peggy Jackson at the assembly. Photo by Leota Harriman.

Graff said she was excited by the prospect of introducing Jackson, who was part of the Moriarty High School faculty for 13 years, part of a career spanning 35 years. Jackson was an AP Government and U.S. History teacher in Moriarty, nurturing the We The People program that continues to be a pinnacle of the high school’s curriculum.

The Honors Civics class, now headed by Amy Page, studies the Constitution, then presenting both sides of Constitutional arguments in competitions judged by lawmakers, lawyers and judges from around New Mexico. The teams frequently qualify for national competition. Page was part of the team who took the program over after Jackson’s retirement.

“My philosophy of education is that what we do as teachers has to be focused today, on every grade level of kids is … the power of the U.S. Constitution today,” Jackson said after the ceremony, adding, “The most important thing is teaching kids the efficacy of voting and the participatory power of democracy.”

Five teachers were inducted to the National Teachers Hall of Fame this year. Those teachers will be featured on National Public Radio and will meet with political and government officials.

Teachers selected must have a minimum of 20 years teaching experience, and are judged by a selection committee. This years’ inductees have a combined total of 168 years of teaching experience.

Todd Bibiano was Jackson’s assistant principal and said Jackson is worthy of the recognition. “Mrs. Jackson has always inspired extraordinary efforts from her students. Her enthusiasm, her professionalism, and her genuine concern for history and civic education are exemplary,” Bibiano said. “Her flexibility in working with students, teachers, and the public has earned her the enviable reputation as an excellent teacher who truly cares. Under her leadership, many students were able to achieve the highest degrees of success with both individual and team learning.”

“As I student, I remember Mrs. Jackson consistently engaging us,” recalled a former student. “In class, she would push students to reflect upon our responses and attitudes as we worked through U.S. History together. The simple answer, the easy quip was never enough; we had to think and explain. My experiences in her classroom influenced me a great deal in my decision to study history in college and ignited in me a passion in the field that would later inspire me to become a teacher.”

Another former student put it this way: “She truly believed in me. She saw the potential that I didn’t see and helped me learn the tools I would need to pursue a valuable life. Not just academically, but as a functional and contributing member of society.”

A colleague described her as a network builder, and added, “She loves her students, even long after they have graduated and become successful members of society. … Her professional learning and support for her peers is beyond comprehension. Her teaching career is stellar, and she has always been dedicated to her students. Her professional contributions are some of the top in the country, and even in retirement she is one of the hardest working teachers in our country.”

Jackson’s reaction upon hearing she had been inducted to the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Photo by Leota Harriman.

Jackson has been a nationally teacher since 2003, and serves as a recruiter and mentor for teachers seeking to become nationally certified. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and two Master’s degrees from the University of New Mexico and Georgetown.

She started her teaching career in Lubbock, Texas, in 1965, and taught in San Antonio, Texas and Albuquerque before joining the faculty at Moriarty High School in 1999.

Other honors include serving as a James Madison Fellow from 2002 to the present; serving as President of the National Council for the Social Studies; being named New Mexico Social Studies Teacher of the Year in 2005; and being named New Mexico Teacher of the Year in 2010.

Graff nominated Jackson for induction to the National Teachers Hall of Fame, and presented a photo plaque in her honor to the high school.

Jackson will be flown by Southwest Airlines, sponsor of the Hall of Fame, to Washington, D.C., and Kansas, where the Hall of Fame is located, for induction activities.

Jackson said she is enjoying retirement, but still likes to be involved with teaching.