Jackie Searles is madly in love with education. Her eyes brighten, and the excitement in her voice rises when she speaks passionately about the special education students who have made a huge impact on her life. “My students give me so much more than I could ever give them,” she said.
Searles, who is a special education major in Baylor’s School of Education, received the 2015-2016 Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators (TASPA) scholarship for her unfailing passion and service to her students. She is one of only three students statewide to receive the award.
This marks the seventh year in a row that a Baylor student has won the award and the 13th Baylor winner since 1998.
“I truly believe that everybody has the ability to learn,” Searles said. “As a student-teacher I have taught at many different schools and built so many relationships. All of my students are so special and unique, and they hold a special place in my heart.”
Searles, who is from the small town of Guilford, Connecticut, said that from a young age that she knew she wanted to be a teacher like her grandmother.
“My grandmother was my role model,” she said. “And her stories about her students and teaching were so rewarding to me.”
Searles is a teaching intern at Midway High School, where she helps students age 18 to 22 learn valuable pre-vocational skills such as administrative tasks and other life skills.
As a second-generation Baylor student, Searles said she chose Baylor because of its highly successful education program and the way it sets up students to be successful.
“Waco to me is the perfect place to reach out,” Searles said. “I was in the classroom the first semester of my freshman year!”
Dr. Tracey Sulak, one of Searles’ professors in the School of Education, described her as curious, energetic and very kind.
“Jackie is so interesting,” Sulak said. “It’s amazing that she can facilitate a small group, teaching them a singular topic, while catering to the individualistic needs of each student in the group.”
Dr. Tonya Davis, associate professor in the Special Education program in the Department of Educational Psychology, also praised Searles.
“Last spring there was a teen boy who had severe special needs who was not at all into learning,” Davis said. “When Jackie interacted with him, he began to be engaged and excited about learning because of the care and enthusiasm she showed towards him; it was an awesome thing to see.”
Searles said that Sulak and Davis, along with recently retired lecturer Pat Arrendondo, have been her favorite teachers she’s had here at Baylor.
She says that she appreciates them because they make her feel so comfortable.
“I can ask them difficult questions and know that they are going to be completely honest with me,” Searles said.
As a proud Baylor student, Searles has participated in All-University SING and Pigskin Revue with Baylor’s SING alliance. She is also very involved with her family, who moved to Waco after she came to college. “I am family orientated so I spend a lot of time on my parents’ farm or just sitting around watching movies or football,” Searles said.
—By Taliyah Clark
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