Two-time Michigan State University College of Education alumna Candice Jackson has been named the 2023-24 Michigan Teacher of the Year (MTOY). She is just the third African American to receive the award and first educator from Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD) in 16 years.
“It’s been an overwhelming and humbling experience,” said Jackson, who was recognized by State Superintendent Michael Rice with a surprise visit to her classroom where he presented the award. Jackson, a third-grade teacher at Mann Learning Community in Detroit, Michigan, has been teaching in DPSCD for 22 years.
She began her Spartan journey as an accounting major, but after participating in a university-sponsored program that paired students with children to educate them on basic economic and accounting principles, she found her calling as an educator.
Upon entering the profession, Jackson reflected on her experience growing up in Macomb County with very few African American teachers and realized the importance of students relating to their teachers. According to Chalkbeat Detroit, Michigan’s African American teacher workforce declined 48% between 2005 and 2015.
“Although I had other options, I thought that it was important to make sure that there were people like me entering the College of Education and into the workforce. It’s important for kids to see people that look like me in this position,” she said. In 2019, the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information reported a 15% racial gap of African American teachers to students at DPSCD.
Following her completion of the Teacher Preparation Program in 2001, Jackson earned a master’s degree from the college’s Curriculum and Instruction program in 2004 – ranked #1 according to U.S. News and World Report – which provided a solid foundation for leadership in the classroom.
For the past five years, Jackson has mentored teachers in Detroit as an instructional coach through a professional development program called Master Teachers, where she is allotted half days throughout the year to provide a range of support to her peers in the district.
“The curriculum and instruction degree has been very impactful in my education journey, because now I coach and work a lot with the curriculum team in my district. Having that degree has allowed me to open doors that I wouldn’t have been able to,” she said.
In Fall 2023, Jackson will represent the state of Michigan, which received over 150 nominations, at a series of competitions across the United States in hopes to be named the National Teacher of the Year.
“Ms. Jackson is this year’s Michigan Teacher of the Year and we are so grateful for her decades of service to children and families in Detroit,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “We are thrilled to honor Candice and highlight her efforts in the classroom to help students achieve their potential and her peer leadership work to empower fellow educators as well.”
Jackson continues to be recognized for her achievement by officials and at events throughout the state, but what matters to her most is impacting the lives of students when she enters the class each day.
“I read a quote recently that said, ‘Your legacy as an educator is determined by what your students go on to do.’ I like that idea,” said Jackson. “When you empower your students to do their own learning and they become builders and dreamers that go out into the world and start doing great things, that lets you know that what you did made an impact.”