Deana Gonzalez has been the driving force behind positive changes at Jackson Elementary, since becoming Principal in 2013. She has cultivated a thriving school culture by setting high expectations and leading with a growth mindset. When she inherited Jackson, her main objective was to see the school perform at a level of excellence.
Principal Gonzalez shared a goal that one day Jackson would become a National Blue Ribbon school. With a tremendous amount of work to make that vision come to fruition, she completely shifted the paradigm of teaching and learning at Jackson by building a culture of high expectations, cultivating quality relationships, creating structured instructional systems, and working together as a team. The goals that seemed impossible to reach five years ago are now a victorious reality at Jackson Elementary.
To stay focused on achieving rigorous learning and performance goals for all students, the school, over the past five years, created various instructional practices and systems to ensure high expectations, consistency, alignment, and accountability. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), content vertical teams, grade-level planning, common formative assessments, interventions, data analysis, goal setting, and continuous monitoring are the pillars for Jackson’s student growth.
For the last five years, beginning in October, teachers have volunteered their time to tutor students for forty-five minutes after-school twice a week. This time is provided to students who need extra academic support with homework or class work, or in occasional instances, who just want to spend a little more time at school. Students are provided with a nutritional meal at no cost to them or their parents.
Principal Gonzalez also recognized that parental involvement is a vital component of student achievement. She initiated new systems of communication, like Remind 101, Facebook, and monthly bulletins to make events more accessible to parents. She reached out to local churches, businesses, and non-profit organizations in the community. The community provided resources, such as individualized tutors and mentors for students, school and office supplies, lunches, gifts, random acts of kindness or service, and words of affirmation to the entire student and staff population. Due to Principal Gonzalez’s unwavering faith, community outreach, and determined work ethic, students and teachers alike at Jackson are being nourished in the mind, body, and soul.
Throughout Jackson’s journey to success however, the school faced unforeseen challenges that they had to overcome. The Memorial Day Floods in 2016 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 devastated their community; a fourth of their students were suddenly without shelter and many could not be located. Families lost their homes, belongings, and many treasured memories. Principal Gonzalez and her team drove through the streets of her neighborhood to knock on doors and encouraged families to take advantage of the resources available to bring their children back to Jackson.
Despite these challenges, Jackson Elementary rallied to provide a place of positivity and hope. Teachers and staff reached out to every family and asked how families had been affected. The staff helped families with paperwork, connected them to community aide, and emphasized the importance of children returning to school. The staff compiled a list of materials the families needed. With the help of unaffected staff, church communities, Girl Scout troops, and fellow schools hosting donation drives, the Jackson Community collected supplies for over 200 of their families. To make up for the missed school days due to the flooding, Jackson compacted the curriculum and ran tutorials after school. Thanks to the generous support provided by Jackson Elementary and its collaborative partners, and spearheaded by Deana Gonzalez, the Jackson community felt supported and loved during this time.
Under the leadership of Principal Deana Gonzalez, Jackson’s Motto “Every Child, Every Day, Whatever it Takes” reigns true. For every challenge, Principal Gonzalez finds a solution. For every task that seems impossible, she devises a plan to make it possible. The staff draws strength from her willingness to overcome barriers and continuously make Jackson a place of hope and inspiration for everyone who walks through its doors.