An earlier version of this story had Superintendent Cedrick Gray's name misspelled. We apologize for the error.
Tracee Thompson, 43, has taught 10th- and 11th-grade English at Jim Hill High School for 9 years. On Thursday, Jan. 31, Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Cedrick Gray paid a visit to Jim Hill to surprise Thompson with the JPS Teacher of the Year Award during an assembly in the school's auditorium.
"I've had special-ed students, and I've had the best of the best, and they all mean just as much to me," Thompson said as she addressed students and faculty after receiving the award. "I'm here to help students do their best. Too many expect less of you. You are all capable of going out there and doing wonderful things. You could be the next Barack Obama."
Thompson was born in Philadelphia, Penn. and grew up in Miami. She graduated from Stranahan High School in Davie, Fla., and received a bachelor of arts in English from Florida Atlantic University. She received a master of arts in secondary education from Jackson State University and is working on a second master's degree at JSU. She is single and living in Jackson.
Two of Thompson's teachers inspired and encouraged her to become a teacher herself. They taught her the importance of encouraging students to never give up on their education.
"I would watch my second-grade teacher and how she always helped us. She wouldn't let us give up on things. I said, 'I want to do that,'" Thompson told the Jackson Free Press. "Later my home-ec teacher in high school, Miss Williams, went out of her way to always be available to us."
"I look forward to representing Jackson Public Schools. No matter what we're rated as a state, I know the best can come of it. My goal is to prepare these students. The greatest honor as a teacher is when a student comes back after graduating to say, 'Yes, you were hard on me, Miss Thompson, but thank you. You made college easier and gave me a desire to learn.' That is what makes teaching worth it."
Thompson provided this advice for students, parents, and new teachers:
"To students: read. Read a lot and study hard. Never give up no matter how difficult it seems to get, and always reach out for help when you need it. To parents: Know that no matter what, teachers are always working hard to pass on information. We need (parents') help, we need them to participate and let us know if something is going on with their child. To novice teachers: That first year may be the hardest but don't give up. It does get easier. Reach out to those veteran teachers, get them to take you under their wing and guide you."