BABE #122: BETH BUTTON JACKSON, Assistant Principal
Today's Babe somehow manages to do it all. Confidence, discipline, and energy are tangible in everything she does - whether it’s waking up at 5 a.m. to teach a yoga class, directing educators and students as an elementary school assistant principal by day, or taking classes and studying for her Doctorate to further her own education by night. Did we mention she also has two sons - ages 7 and 8? Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Beth! You are a BWH extraordinaire.
Hometown: Charleston, SC
Current city: Tallahassee, FL
Alma mater: University of Florida, Florida State University, University of West Florida
Degree: Biology; Master’s in Educational Leadership; currently seeking doctorate in Education - Curriculum and Instruction
Very first job: Little Lambs Childcare
Hustle: Assistant Principal at an elementary school
Babe you admire and why?
There are so many babes I admire, but I really adore my sister. She is an artist who was brave enough to quit her comfortable, salaried job to pursue her dream. I am also blown away by grandmother. She was a BWH before it was popular to be one. She worked in the 1950s and 60s because she wanted to. She always dressed how she wanted to. She wore long, dramatic skirts because she liked them. She volunteered and traveled, even as a widow. Basically, she spent her life doing what she wanted to do.
How do you spend your free time?
Like most women, free time is a rare commodity, but if I have a spare hour, I’m doing yoga or reading.
Favorite app, website or blog?
A Cup of Jo, a super fun mom/style/work blog that makes me dream of living in New York City.
Favorite fictional female character?
Ana Pascal from Stranger than Fiction
Go-to adult beverage?
Bourbon and diet with an extra lime
Favorite Harry Potter book?
HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban (mostly because I want a time turner).
Last concert you attended?
Tell us about your hustle.
My main hustle is being a mom. It’s my most important and most rewarding job. I also get to be a daughter, wife, stepmother, sister, friend, boss, neighbor, employee and peer. My day job hustle involves working at an elementary school as assistant principal, doing whatever I can to increase student learning and make the days run smoothly for my staff. My other (early morning) hustle is being a yoga teacher. Some mornings I have to drag myself out of bed, but afterward, I'm always so glad I did. Teaching and doing yoga are life-giving for me. My other (late evening) hustle is being a doctoral student. I am working on an doctorate in education on curriculum and instruction. Even on nights I don’t want to write another page or read another article, I keep going. Nelson Mandela said it best: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I believe in education for students, and for myself.
What does your typical workday look like?
If I’m not teaching a 5:30 a.m. yoga class, I walk or jog with the dog and do a few yoga flows to start my day before waking my boys and getting them dressed and loaded in the car with a cup full of dry cereal. I am at work by 7 a.m, and days are all really different. Some days I get to observe the magic that teachers are making in their classroom, some days I deal with poor choices made by a student, some days I substitute or test students—most days have a little of everything. I try to leave work between 4:30 and 5 p.m. In the evenings, we fit in family dinner, ball practice, or playtime before the boys go to bed at 8 p.m. After they go to bed, I work on my doctoral coursework.
How long have you been working in education? What draws you to your work as an assistant principal?
I got my first classroom in 2003. I was not a college of education major and remember being shocked that someone trusted me enough to give me keys and five periods of science students. I had never even interned. I really did not know I wanted to be a teacher and had applied on a whim. Then, I fell in love. I loved being in my classroom and I loved my students. I continued to read and grow and improve at my practice. I had stumbled upon my niche. Once I found out that education was where I belonged, I went back to school for my master’s degree. I loved training teachers during the summer and decided to move into administration. Even on the days everything goes wrong, I still am humbled I get to do this job.
How long have you been practicing yoga, and when did you become an instructor?
I found yoga while pregnant with my oldest, almost 10 years ago. Until pregnancy, I was focused on cardio fitness. Yoga seemed like a great choice when cardio was more difficult. Though I found yoga for exercise, when I finished a class, I felt like I had just gone to church. There’s something about yoga that is more than just physical movement. When I left teaching to move into administration, I missed it, so I started my 200-hour yoga teacher training as a way to teach again.
How do you stay organized and on top of your work and responsibilities?
I make a to-do list every night before I leave work. It sound cliche, but it works for me. It wraps up my day and focuses me in the morning. I am definitely a morning person, so starting off with a list makes me even more productive.
How has being a woman has affected your professional experience?
Being a woman affects every profession. Education, even though it is so popular with women, is no different. In my experience, males in this field are treated differently and earn respect from parents and teachers more quickly than females do. I try not to focus on the inequity, but instead work hard to do my job and treat others in a way that earns respect. Women in education will not get respect without those two characteristics.
What is the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
This is only my second year working in elementary school. Prior to the last two years, I spent over a decade in middle and high school. The gender ratio in elementary school is pretty extreme, but is less so in the secondary level. My first administrative job was at a middle school where half my teachers were men and all of my teachers except one were older than me. It forced me out of my shell. I learned to be direct and assertive. I also learned that I can do hard things.
Were there any specific teachers or leaders in your education who inspired you to pursue this career?
There are teachers in my past who are wonderful, but I am inspired to be better every day by some of the amazing teachers I work with now. They are creative, dynamic and constantly striving to better their students. They work so hard for our students, so I try to work just as hard to support them.
What’s the skill you most need to improve in your work?
Attention to details. I am a big-picture person and sometimes the details get lost.
Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Gillian Gregory was my assistant principal when I was a high school teacher. She has since been promoted several times and is now the assistant superintendent of teaching and learning in Leon County Schools. Despite being removed from a school, she has not forgotten to focus on students in every decision she makes. She puts kids first. She is a mom and loves her own two children. She is a champion for the children in our district.
Are you involved with any other community organizations or side projects?
During the last campaign cycle, I volunteered as the treasurer and social media manager for a local campaign. I am an introvert, and campaigning was good for me. It was time-consuming, but I learned the art of small talk on the campaign trail. It also gave my children the opportunity to see how our government works firsthand. It never ceases to amaze me how much I get in return when I choose to give.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
Make connections, and do not lose your passion. Those two things will get your far in any industry.
How do you find a work-life balance?
Balance is so important. I didn’t begin to learn it until I had my children, and I still struggle with it. I’m naturally driven and have trouble relaxing, so it’s more comfortable for me to be on the move than to take some moments to reflect and enjoy life. Yoga helps me slow down. I must admit though, I write "SLOW DOWN" in all capital letters in my planner each week. I think I’ll always need a reminder.
What helps you wind down?
I love a hot bath and a glass of wine at the end of a long day.
What are your goals for the future?
I love my job, but I still say I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I hope to never stop learning and trying new things. I want to learn to make stained glass, I want to learn to walk on my hands, I want to bake real Italian pizza crust (which means taking a trip to Italy), and I want to learn to efficiently garden. Maybe one day.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
We have a family vision statement framed and hanging in our house: We always have enough to share. We always bring kindness and fun. We are a team. I try to instill those mantras into my children. They have to say it to me each day before we part ways. It’s my advice for them and for life - Always share. Be kind. Have fun. Cling to your people.
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