Assistant Professor of Special Education, College of William and Mary
CEC Member since 2009
With degrees in Latin American Studies and International Affairs, Jackie Rodriguez never expected to find herself in the realm of education. But as she notes, “life happened,” and she quickly became involved with the Junior National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. after college. It was that experience of working with students, curriculum and logistics that sparked her interest in becoming an educator.
“I really liked teaching, and I was good at it, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ I applied for Teach for America and got in.” With her background, Jackie was somewhat startled to find that she was unqualified to teach history, but was qualified to teach special education. But that wasn’t a deterrent to her.
“I’m proud to be a special education advocate. I believe in CEC’s advocacy work on Capitol Hill and love being a part of the grassroots effort to improve outcomes for our students. If we want to secure the funding and research we need to improve outcomes, each one of us needs to make our voices heard with policy makers.”
Getting her feet wet in an economically disadvantaged pre-kindergarten classroom was a big change from her past experiences. “The learning curve is immense. You realize that you can be at work 18 hours a day and still need to be there 18 hours the next day because there’s just so much to learn. But I loved my job and met a lot of good friends. We were a true community of learners and a true community of teachers.” Jackie’s dedication to her students and her craft led her to help develop some of the first inclusive co-teaching environments in the Washington, D.C. school district.
A change agent and dedicated champion of special education, Jackie earned her Ph.D. in Exceptional Education and now works with future teachers as an Assistant Professor at the College of William and Mary.
Why I Do What I Do
“Teachers who have high expectations for all of their students do whatever it takes to reach every single child in their classroom. Instead of highlighting a student’s deficits and becoming disillusioned, we special educators emphasize the importance of constant progress. I was reluctant to leave the K-12 classroom, but knew that moving into teacher education would allow me to prepare dynamic, knowledgeable teachers who would one day ensure that my kids just like my 6th-grade students would have every opportunity for success in their futures.”
How CEC Helps Jackie Do More
“As a teacher-educator, I try to instill the importance of advocacy with the pre- and in-service teachers I work with so that they recognize they have a place in a global community of educators as an advocate for the inclusive education of all children everywhere. We advocate for our students, the families in our schools, and the community in which our students live, with the goal of building a society characterized by inclusivity.”
Jackie’s passion for special education + CEC’s active grassroots network/tools = policy victories benefitting students and educators.
As a teacher educator, Jackie shares how to advocate for students in schools and on Capitol Hill with future teachers. Being an active member of CEC’s Children and Youth Action Network connects her with local, state and federal policy makers to improve outcomes for all students and increase special/gifted education funding.
“Always get better.”
She’s also inspired by Lao Tzu’s words: “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”
Ines of my Soul by Isabelle Allende
If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be?
“I’m a HUGE fan of Eleanor Roosevelt,” Jackie says.
Roosevelt famously said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” a quote that Jackie has held dear since she was in middle school.