Vanessa Dean | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Vanessa Dean

Photo by Trip Burns

Vanessa Dean

by Dustin Cardon

Vanessa Dean, a fourth-grade teacher at Casey Elementary School, is one of five educators who will receive a 2013 Outstanding Educator Award. Parents for Public Schools of Jackson will present the award Sept. 4 in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson.

Leslie Coleman, principal at Casey Elementary, nominated Dean for the award. Dean's accomplishments for the nomination include fostering students' success, her dedication to teaching, demonstrating a high commitment to student achievement, engaging students in challenging and meaningful work, and interacting with parents in the education process.

Born in Bassfield, Miss., Dean comes from a strong background of educators. Her grandmother and many aunts and uncles have worked as teachers, and they provided strong motivation for Dean to become an educator as well.

Dean, 35, attended Bassfield High School and went on to Alcorn State University in 1996, where she majored in biology. Dean graduated magnum cum laude in 2000 and returned to Alcorn for two more years to receive a masters of science degree.

After finishing college, Dean spent a year working at the Waterways Experiment Station, an Army Corps of Engineers environmental research lab in Vicksburg, before accepting a teaching position at Vicksburg Intermediate School in 2003.

Dean married Jerome Dean in 2008. The two moved to Ridgeland the same year. Dean learned of an open teaching position at Casey Elementary while looking for a job in JPS shortly afterward.

"I was interested in Casey because they had good arts and special programs going, and were high-achieving," Dean said. "The arts are also integrated into the curriculum so the students can learn through the arts. We make it a point to teach children through not just textbooks, but from drama, music and visual arts, so that the learning experience can be more whole for the child. Casey is also a great learning environment because the parents are so supportive.

"One of the things I like about teaching is the fact that I have such an impact on children's lives, and see that they can achieve things that they thought were impossible," Dean said. "I make it a point to express my expectations to my students—that I expect them to succeed and believe they can succeed. It all comes together once you let them know that. You can get them to help you help them. I hope that the children I teach see that I'm serious about helping them get to that goal of success. It feels good to get this award and receive recognition for what I do every day."

Dean and her husband have a son, Austin, who is 3 years old.

The other recipients of the Outstanding Educator Award are Monique Lastique, a fifth-grade teacher at Davis Magnet Elementary; Barclay McKean, a second-grade teacher at Pecan Park Elementary; Jenna Caudle, a kindergarten teacher at Spann Elementary; and Holly Crane, a ninth-grade English teacher at Forest Hill High School.

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