At age 24, William Jackson was the highest performing science teacher in Atlanta Public Schools. Despite his success, he didn’t feel like he was preparing his students to thrive beyond the test.
“I was teaching in a Title I school, where eighty to ninety percent of the students received free or reduced price lunch, and they got the best test scores anyway,” he says. “So I was doing a good job with students who were arguably already good at taking tests. But for those who couldn’t apply what I taught to life, or acquire information independently, I wasn’t helping.”
Determined to do more for his students and marry his research skills with his classroom experience to evaluate and improve how educational programming is delivered in the classroom. William became an EP Fellow in 2013.
“I’d heard about EP being a prestigious Fellowship, and I wanted to do it to understand more about education reform which is really unique. EP gave me the on-the-ground work experience that my doctoral program didn’t have. My experience reinforced the path I was pursuing.”
- Program & Project Management
During his Fellowship, William served the Montgomery County Childcare Association, which provides early-childhood education to over 1,000 of the county's children. There, he helped evaluate how the organization implemented its child-centered curriculum. He then designed a system of support and accountability to ensure that all of the organizations’ teachers could implement the curriculum in a high-quality way.
Now, William serves as Founder and Executive Director for Village of Wisdom (VOW), a nonprofit in Durham, North Carolina that supports Black families and their children to “build and protect the self-esteem and self-image of Black Children from the harmful effects of implicit racial bias in education.”
Through his work in founding and leading VOW, William is ensuring that Black children and their families have well-explored, positive racial identities to enable them to thrive in and outside of school and construct new systems to replace those that don’t serve them.
For two years, VOW has provided students with opportunities to celebrate their personal genius through cultural events, parent workshops, and field trips, and empowered Black families. William also aspires for his organization to help establish an ecosystem where Black parents share decision-making power over their child's school with school leaders.
Most recently, William and Village of Wisdom began to engage families in their Black Genius planning process to help children navigate systemic racism. Through Black Genius planning, Black children hone their growth mindsets, become more aware of their interests, deepen their cultural and racial self-esteem, expand their ability to navigate cultural spaces, and develop strategies for establishing trust with individuals they love. Village of Wisdom also works with families to ensure negative stereotypes about Black youth and inequitable access to resources does not impede these children’s ability to become Black Genius.
To date, VOW has hosted 20 parent workshops, four Black Genius field trips, and three large-scale community celebrations that have engaged over 1,200 families and directly impacted 75 families.
William was named an Echoing Green Black Male Achievement Fellow in 2014 and one of EP's 10 EPic Alumni in 2016.