By GRAYSON LEE MAXWELL
Rutherford County Schools
Dr. Alexandria Jackson may have begun working at Roy Waldron Elementary just five months ago, but her previous experience with schools in Nashville has more than prepared her to take on a role of leadership at Roy Waldron Elementary School.
“I was in Metro for 16 years,” Jackson said. “ I started as a classroom teacher – then went on to be an instructional coach and assistant principal. Now I’m here at Roy Waldron.”
The school has a unique history spanning two buildings. The Roy Waldron annex, previously LaVergne Primary, houses Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten and first grade. Roy Waldron’s main building houses second through fifth grades, which is where Jackson runs the day-to-day operations.
“The annex was LaVergne Primary, and then the schools merged into the two buildings. The annex is unique because it also has a principal – Angela Thomas Maupin. We do collaborate across the schools, and Maupin handles all the day-to-day operations at the annex. For example, during the fall festival we were able to work together and get all our families taken care of.”
With a unique history, culture is critical to the success of Roy Waldron, which is one of the biggest elementary schools within the district with around 1,200 total students.
“There are people who have been here at Roy Waldron for a very long time. They love it. Everyone here calls the school ‘The Roy’. A lot of things we’re trying to do as a new administration is to come up with student incentives to get the students excited about coming day to day,” said Jackson.
Teachers at the school talked about ‘The Roy’ as a place they feel honored to work at, where everyone knows everyone, and the students always come first.
“The diversity in our building is such an honor to bear witness to. I love the way our staff makes all children feel safe and the way they invest in each and every one of them,” said Amy Boyd, third grade teacher.
Rick Hawkins is a fifth grade teacher at Roy Waldron who also emphasized the importance of community at Roy Waldron.
“The community our school serves isn’t large, and there is a feeling everybody knows everybody. The students love their teachers here and vice versa. The school has always put students first,” Hawkins said.
Jackson has made the gifted program at Roy Waldron a priority during her time as principal. Gifted programs serve students who may need additional academic challenges, or who require more rigor to continue growing as they advance grade-to-grade.
“A lot of times it gets overlooked, but we have a decent population of students who are in that gifted realm. We have a pretty great gifted program. A lot of times gifted students go unrecognized, or they go unassessed – we just don’t know anything until a parent says something to us. We’ve been trying to talk to classroom teachers and parents so the recognize some of these characteristics,” Jackson said.
Dr. Joanne O’Kain is the gifted facilitator and music theater director at Roy Waldron. She also works with Cedar Grove Elementary and Rutherford County Virtual School.
“The gifted students at RWS are diverse,” O’Kain said. “I regularly discuss with our academic coaches the progress of our identified students and potential students. I frequently partner with art, the library and music teachers to identify potential gifted students. I love working with students to help them learn more about themselves, teach them advanced curriculum and help them create leadership skills among their peers and in our community.
One of the incentives Jackson has worked on is the Wildcat Cave, a room decorated to resemble a Wildcat den. The walls are dark crumpled paper boulders, and the lights have been dimmed. Jackson and her assistant principal Steven Wright have tables laden with prizes for students to buy with their Wildcat Cash.
“We have related arts points and cafeteria points where they can earn certain numbers of prizes each week,” Jackson said. “We also bring in a lot of people from the outside. We have Middle Tennessee Electric here today and the police department. We try to bring in a lot of extracurricular things to the school. We’re just coming up with more ways we can say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a great job’ — and the kids love it.”