Tracee Thompson is mother to three sons,—Mark, 23, Michael, 20, and Jordan, 17—but her love for children does not stop there. It spreads to the hallways and English classrooms of Jim Hill High School.
"I always knew I wanted to be a teacher," says 43-year-old Thompson, who is in her 10th year of teaching English.
She was born in Philadelphia, Pa., and raised in Miami, Fla. She earned a bachelor's degree in English from Florida Atlantic University, and is seeking her master's degree in English from Jackson State University. She moved to Jackson in 2008 after teaching in the Orlando, Fla., area for four years.
Throughout her teaching career, Thompson has taught many aspects of English, but she enjoys literature the most and calls herself a Shakespeare and Victorian fanatic. She also has a strong passion for Latin American literature, which is the subject of her thesis proposal.
Teaching high schoolers is a challenge, but Thompson is up to it. "I've only taught high school," she says. "Middle school is nice, but they are very emotional. My hat is off to elementary teachers. The kids get on my nerves, and they know they get on my nerves, but it is the kids that keep me driven."
She says that the principal will have to hog-tie her to get her out of the school: "I'm going to die in my classroom. I'm the teacher that very seldom takes off. If I take off, it will be for professional development or something very important," she says.
It's no wonder, then, that Thompson is the Jackson Public School district's 2013 Teacher of the Year. She is still surprised about the winning the award in February. She says it is an honor, but Thompson doesn't believe that she is doing anything spectacular.
"I just do my job. It is what I'm supposed to do," she says.
Last year, the Mississippi Economic Council's STAR (Student-Teacher Achievement Recognition) Student program selected a student from Jill Hill, Deanna Brown, as their STAR Student, who then chose Thompson as a STAR Teacher, despite not having Thompson as a teacher since her sophomore year. "Although being chosen by the committee at the school board as teacher of the year--yes, it is a very great honor. The bigger honor is the student who comes back and says, 'You are my star! You deserve this honor,'" Thompson says.
Other than teaching English in the classroom, Thompson is the English department chairperson, is on the leadership committee and is the drama team sponsor. She calls herself a workaholic, but has no plans on retiring or leaving Jim Hill. Thompson feels that she has the best job--the opportunity to mold future doctors, teachers and lawyers.
"My responsibility is to help them reach for the stars. (But) the job doesn't stop with me, it is an effort of parents, students, teachers and administrators," Thompson says.