Teaching young children was Betty Jackson’s passion. She taught school for 41 years before retiring in 2003 from Crystal River Primary School.
“I taught first grade longer than any other grade, for 21 years, at CRPS,” she said. She also taught the Title 1 Reading Lab for all grades during the latter part of her career there.
Every day, she had her first-graders recite this pledge in class: “I pledge today to do my best, to act my best and to think my best. If I can help someone, I pledge to do that, too.”
Although she ran a very strict classroom, the children behaved and learned much in Ms. Jackson’s class.
“Today, children aren’t as disciplined. I was a strict teacher, but every child had a chance to be a leader in my class,” she said. Leaders rotated — every child took his or her turn being the leader for the day in her classroom. No child was chosen over another child, as they all had a chance to be the leader for the day.
Modern times have brought problems, she said. In today’s society parents would “rather be their child’s friend or they are too young to be parents and don’t have the parenting skills,” she said.
Jackson worked at CRPS under Principals Ethel Winn, Ben Branch, Bennye Milton and Sandy Kennedy.
She was born in Inverness, but was raised in Red Level. She attended school at the Red Level Baptist Church — a one-room school — through third grade. The school housed first- through eighth-grade classes.
“Mrs. Artie V. Collins was the teacher in 1945-1948.” In 1949 they were transferred to the George Washington Carver School — an all-black school during segregation — in Crystal River when she was in fourth grade and was taught by Mamie Mobley.
After eighth grade, Jackson attended Booker T. Washington Elementary/High School, another all-black school for ninth to 12th grades in Inverness. The school was located where the Inverness Middle School is today.
There was only one school bus to transport students from Red Level to Inverness.
“We were the first students to board the bus in the morning at 5:45 to
6 a.m. and the last to get off the bus in the evening between 5:50 to 6 p.m.
The school was named after the famed Booker T. Washington, a well-known black educator, author, public speaker who was also an advisor to U. S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
Washington once said, “Success is measured not so much by the position one has reached in life, but by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
Jackson graduated from Booker T. Washington in 1957 and attended Hampton Junior College in Ocala from 1958-1960, graduating with an Associate in Arts degree.
She attended Florida A&M University in Tallahassee from 1960-1962 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education.
“I went back to graduate school at Stetson University and received a Master’s in Education degree with an emphasis on reading,” she said.
She taught fourth grade for three years at Booker T. Washington, then left the state to teach in South Carolina from 1965-1967.
Jackson returned to Booker T. Washington, teaching second and third grades until the schools were integrated. Then, she began her long career at Crystal River Primary School.
Early on, some people didn’t want their child taught by her because she was black, and sometimes they didn’t want their child disciplined. She had one man who didn’t want his child disciplined. Jackson told him to come by her class anytime to observe. He did just that.
“Later, we became very good friends,” she said.
Jackson is still active in the community as a member of the African American Club and member of the George Washington Carver Center in Crystal River. Her advice to new teachers today: “One must be tolerant and love to teach children today.”