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The Pioneer

The Pioneer

Celebrating Black Excellence, Leader Spotlight: Ms. Kimya Jackson

Kimya Jackson

WEST ORANGE, NJ – Since 2021, Ms. Kimya Jackson has been spearheading the education of the nearly 500 students at Redwood Elementary School. For this, Ms. Jackson is one of the numerous West Orange School District Black leaders that the Pioneer has chosen to recognize for its 2024 Black History Month series of articles. Ms. Jackson deserves to be recognized, as her leadership in the district has spanned nearly two decades.

Jackson’s incredible leadership skills have likely been attributed to her incredible education. She attended private school as a child. After she finished private school, she attended the Science High School in Newark (which is now known as Science Park).

After her pre-college education, she would go on to, in her own words, “attend multiple colleges…for various reasons”. She first attended Stockton State University and then went on to graduate from Essex County College with an associate degree in Early Childhood Education. She earned her bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education from Kean University. However, she didn’t stop there as she studied International Baccalaureate studies for primary-age students at the University of Southern California. Yet, Ms. Jackson is still learning despite it being over 20 years since she got her bachelor’s as, since 2018, she has been working towards her doctorate in Teacher Education and Teacher Development from Montclair State University.

Anyone working and studying as much as Ms. Jackson needs some time away from her work computer and textbooks. However, she still takes time to learn on her own during her free time as she has combined her love of travel with her love of African-American history. Ms. Jackson says that before she turned 50, she vowed to travel to every one of the 50 states and find Black history. She has made some excellent progress in her free time and only has Alaska left on her 50 by 50 Black history in every state bucket list.

When she isn’t on a plane to new locations or learning, she is working at Redwood Elementary School, where she has been a proud member of the Rocket family for two decades. Ms. Jackson has worked her way up from a Redwood teacher to Principal during her tenure and even became the Co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee.

Some other noteworthy facts about Ms. Jackson are she is an Adjunct Professor at Montclair State, a curriculum developer at BazanEd, spent a month in Brazil to study their education system, taught teachers in India different teaching strategies, traveled to Ghana to see how they learn there, co-authored the book #Helpme: A Parent’s Guide to Navigating the School Experience Through the Eyes of Teachers, and is an education consultant at #HelpMe.

Ms. Jackson has used her experienced background and impressive resume to promote Black and multicultural history throughout her school. “At Redwood, we have a diversity, equity,…and access committee that is led by teachers in the school,” Ms. Jackson stated while describing what Redwood is doing to raise equity throughout her school, “The population of teachers in the school, we have four Black certified teachers, two Asian teachers, several Hispanic teachers, while the bulk of the other teachers are Caucasian. So I say this to say that the people on our committee are not people who may represent cultural diversity. However, they are invested in understanding diversity. They are well read and thirsty for more cultural knowledge…so when you’re…focusing on people’s culture, Black history included, you don’t have to be a Black person to be a connoisseur or an expert on it.” Ms. Jackson has also said that the committee, despite its lack of diversity, has done “the work to open up opportunities to learn about more people, different people every single year. And not just in Black history, but for all cultures”.

When responding to why it is so important that Black history is taught, in her school and beyond, she responded with her own question asking, “Why is it important to teach American history? Why is it important to teach European history? Why is it important to teach history?… You can’t move forward if you don’t know from where you’ve come, so why is it important? Because Black history is American history. So if we have to learn American history, how are we going to know about ourselves if we don’t know the full story?” She expanded more by saying, “It’s just as important as Indigenous peoples’ history…So how are we going to know this land if we don’t know when the land was divided and why the land was divided?”

One final statement that Ms. Jackson made was, “I love being me; exactly me. I am a proud Black woman who will wear my natural hair. I am a proud Black woman who uses African-American Vernacular English because it is my first language. And I should be respected for exactly who I am. I should [and] no one should have to [culturally] assimilate.”

Ms. Jackson is a prime example of what a leader should be, and she deserves to be acknowledged as not just one of the best Black leaders in the district but one of the leaders in the district, period. Redwood and its future are in great hands with her at the helm.

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