Paul Jackson

With help from Ashland University, Paul Jackson becomes a first-year school administrator

Published on Sep. 11, 2023
Ashland University

Ashland University has played a big part throughout Paul Jackson’s life.

He met his wife at AU, was named a middle school principal after earning a master’s degree from the university and is now using his graduate-schooling knowledge toward a Ph.D.

“In high school I attended a summer program for gifted young people,” Jackson said. “The beautiful campus, fascinating courses and stimulating conversations led by AU faculty left a strong impression on me as a young man.”

So, when it came time to pursue a master’s degree, Jackson said there really was no question where he would do that.

Jackson graduated from AU in 2019 with a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, which eventually led to him recently being named the Dalton Middle School principal for the 2023-24 school year. Dalton is a small school district in eastern Wayne County about 40 minutes from Ashland.

“Dalton is an incredible community which, much like Ashland, blends traditional values with a strong desire to strive for the highest degree of excellence in the classroom and beyond,” said Jackson, who joined the Dalton district as a teacher in 2015.

While Jackson transferred after one year as an undergrad at AU for personal reasons, he met his wife of eight years during that time.

Transferring closer to where he is originally from, Knox County, Jackson earned his bachelor’s degree at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.

Wanting to give AU another shot, Jackson applied to be a graduate student there, but could only do so on academic probation because his undergraduate GPA “was something less than stellar.”

“I was not always the best student,” Jackson admitted.

But, by the time he finished AU’s program, he received recognition as the top performing Master of Education student with the 2019 Academic Hall of Fame award and said the skills he gained at AU continue to serve him as he begins work this fall on his dissertation for a Ph.D with Concordia University Chicago.

As a teacher of high school Spanish and English to speakers of other languages district-wide in Dalton, Jackson said he appreciated AU for helping him find a balance between the demands of work, graduate school and a growing family.

“The program takes two years for a full-time student, and I was able to finish in that time frame,” said Jackson, who earned a TESOL (Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement through the program, too. “Even with a full course load, the classes were completely online and designed with working professionals in mind.”

Not only did he learn what he needed to best serve the English learners in his classroom during his second stint with AU, but Jackson said he also discovered how to write academically and gained research literacy skills that have been invaluable to him as a professional.

One of his professors, Maria Sargent, challenged him, impressed him with the depth of her feedback and engaged her students’ ideas in a thoughtful way that didn’t allow for “canned” responses, Jackson said.

Sargent said Jackson impressed her in many ways, too, including him seeking out what he doesn’t know and analyzing fully to detect errors or the need for revision for what he does know.

“He has a keen mind, a creative bent and a quest for excellence that is rarely seen in such a balanced manner,” Sargent said. “He is truly an exceptional individual in this regard.

“I was impressed with his ability to grasp difficult concepts and apply theories in a creative manner,” she added.

Steve Watkins, the previous Dalton Middle School principal who is now the district’s high school principal, said there will be a learning curve for Jackson as a first-time administrator, but in a very short time will become an excellent principal.

“He comes to this new position very prepared for this role as he gained much experience from his field experiences and also his graduate coursework,” Watkins said.

Recognizing he has much to learn as a first-year administrator, Jackson said he’s grateful for his time at AU to help with that and he’s honored Dalton has confidence in him to lead its middle school.

“Earning an advanced degree not only enriches the individual but also those they serve,” Jackson said. “As I expand my sphere of influence and work to support the teachers and students at Dalton Middle School, I remain grateful to AU for its role in shaping me into a more competent servant.”