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Retiring North Marion kindergarten teacher dubbed 'Teacher Cool' by students

COURTESY PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY
 - Cindy Jackson takes a break from class to get a photo with her students. What makes Kindergarten Teacher Cindy Jackson, who's retiring this June, so amazing at what she does? Well, her kindergarten class says it's because she's Teacher Cool.

"I like her because she's nice," notes Athena Riordan, a member of Jackson's kindergarten class. "She gets us toys, so we can play. Pretends to be Teacher Cool."

What has and will always make Jackson so indelible for everyone who knows her, is that she's an experienced professional who can truly help her students grow, while also bringing joy to every situation. Jackson, who has spent her entire 35-year teaching career at North Marion, teaches new words and basic math through singing, dancing, and transforming into a host of characters, including Teacher Cool, who wears oversized yellow-framed sunglasses, or Mrs. Wigson, who wears a wig.

"She's silly," Jones Quintero notes, shrugging.

"You look funny, dancing to the Friday song," kindergartner Andrew Zografos tells Jackson, adding that "it's a song that says it's Friday."

Another student, Makyla Villareal, explains to Jackson that she appreciates how: "You make funny moves, dancing weird."

Her students aren't the only ones who adore Jackson's jubilant educator's heart and will miss her when she retires. Many of her co-workers feel the same way. That includes her fellow Kindergarten Teachers, such as Emily Miller, who's known Jackson for 26 years, and Jamie Bohall, who met Jackson when she was a student teacher in 2017.COURTESY PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Cindy Jackson embodies her 'Teacher Cool' persona on a chilly January day when students were rewarded with a chance to silly string their teachers after a successful American Heart Association fundraiser (the Fun Run).

"She was so welcoming to me from the moment I met her," Bohall says.

Miller says she has always been impressed with Jackson's abilities as an educator.

"She is such a wealth of information when it comes to child development and supporting young learners," Miller says. "She is so creative and always has the best ideas for keeping learning fun and engaging."

Primary School Principal Allison Hunt agrees wholeheartedly with her team on the subject of Jackson's fantastic qualities.

"Cindy is just pure joy to be around!" Hunt said. "Her laugh is infectious and we often comment on how much we will miss her when she retires. She is masterful as a teacher and loyal as a friend."

A Young Teacher

Maybe she's such a strong educator because Jackson has been a teacher for almost as long as she's been a student. Jackson, the second of four siblings, cleverly set up her own school room in the finished basement of her family's Portland home. Jackson, about 17 at the time, arranged TV trays to serve as desks and dug gently worn books from the dust bin or purchased them from Goodwill. She even crafted chalkboards from plywood and blackboard paint she bought, and created lesson plans and a school schedule so detailed that it included fire drills.

"I was really just playing, but it was pretty good; I was there every day and ready for them to come in," Jackson says of her little students, who ranged in age from preschool to fourth grade. "We would do science experiments, or we would do little worksheets that I made or found for them."

Jackson presided over her elaborate schoolroom for two summers while she was on recess from Saint Mary of the Valley High School (now Valley Catholic) in Beaverton. Then she headed to Western Oregon to make her teacher status official, soon earning a Bachelor of Arts in Education.

After having to create her own classroom, Jackson, who now lives in the Donald area, must have been thrilled to find a ready-made one at North Marion. She started out leading classes of migrant students and students who were learning English as a Second Language. One of the sisters at Saint Mary helped her build a strong understanding of Spanish, and Jackson also knows some Norwegian, a skill she picked up from a close friend in college. Since then she's taught every early age group: first, second, and a first-second blend. Yet her favorite group of students to teach is the little kindergartners.

"They're enthusiastic and genuine and loving and fun," Jackson says. "They don't get embarrassed by my antics like a middle schooler would. They like my antics. We have fun together."

She adds that it's also satisfying to see kindergartners make such massive growth in their learning from the first to last day in class

"In other grades, you see them refining skills," Jackson says. "In kindergarten, you see them gaining a lot of really basic skills. A lot of kids go from not knowing what they're doing at school or not knowing how to hold a pencil to learning how to write little math problems and to read."

Her husband, Carlin, jokes that kindergartners are also: "the only group that she's taller than."

A Farewell Is Not Forever

Albeit not an Amazon, Jackson's small frame does contain a gigantic personality.

In fact, she has a "sunny disposition and the ability to make others laugh," states School District Agnes Albert, who went to High School with Jackson and chats with her regularly because the nurses' office is tucked inside the Primary School.

"I'll miss Cindy's daily presence at work," Bohall says. "She brings so much joy and laughter to our days. Our friendship is important to me, so I will keep seeing her — or honking at her on my commute home!"

Bohall isn't the only one committed to keeping connected to Jackson.

"I have already told her that she will have to come be a guest teacher next year so we can get a good dose of Mrs. Jackson!" Miller says. "The kids that got to have her as a teacher were so lucky and those of us who got to work alongside her were so lucky too!"

Jackson says she'll also miss the North Marion family who has always been there for her. She remembers how supportive staff, students, and families were during the nine months from 1998-99 when she was receiving chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma. Her North Marion family organized a meal train and told her how much she meant to them.

"Having people care like that, I don't know how to say it, I wouldn't have expected it," she says. "I knew people were kind and all that, but to have people share the emotions and the support that they did was definitely very moving."

Jackson says that she has loved being a part of the North Marion Primary School team.

"It's the only place I've taught, and it's been 35 years, so I kind of grew up here," she says.

It's safe to say the ties are strong enough to bring her back to visit. Yet Jackson will be focusing most of her attention on her three children (one 23, one 26, and one a junior at North Marion High) and the foster children she and her husband look after. The couple might not get to spend as much time together as they'd like — yet. However, he's not far from retirement himself with just a couple more years to go after 42 years as a Payroll Administrator for North Pacific Management.

"It's going to be hard having her home all the time when I work from home and I don't retire for two years," he says. "She'll have to go play with her mom because I'll get really jealous."

Jackson, as she always seems to be doing, laughs good-naturedly.

"We'll definitely be looking forward to the time when we're both retired," she says.

But once a teacher, always a teacher. Even when she's not leading a kindergarten class at North Marion anymore, her students will still greet her as a teacher when she's out and about in the community, as they've always done.

"I love when you go through a park and the kids say, 'Mrs. Jackson,' 'Mrs. Jackson,'" Carlin Jackson jokes.

The famous Mrs. Jackson herself says that she's taught so long that some of those kids are the students of people who attended her class decades ago.

"I'm leaving before they're the grandkids of the students I taught," she says, and she and Carlin laugh together.

To share stories on the North Marion School District, email Jillian Daley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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