Teacher-turned-guidance counselor follows his own advice: be open to new possibilities
Bryan Jackson M.S. '08 is a man far from home. In his office at Nottoway High School in Crewe, Va., Jackson's Longwood University degree shares wall space with enough Red Sox and Patriots memorabilia to prove he's a native New Englander.
Jackson, who earned his Master of Science degree in education with a specialization in school counseling from Longwood, advises high-school students to be flexible and remain open to new possibilities. And he follows his own advice.
"My wife and I attended a one-year post-baccalaureate teaching program in Massachusetts and went to a job fair in Boston, where we met people from Richmond City Public Schools," he said. "They brought us down to Richmond for interviews and offered us jobs on the spot."
Jackson landed on Richmond's Southside, teaching fourth grade. He was ecstatic to have a job, but the reality was that he hadn't found quite the right fit.
"I realized that I loved being in the school environment, but the classroom wasn't for me," Jackson said.
Jackson kept remembering his own high-school experience and the role his guidance counselor played in his future. Jackson had been an average student, and he didn't bother going to see his guidance counselor until his senior year-when he was trying to figure out what to do with his life.
"My counselor and I spent a lot of time talking about fly fishing, something we both happened to enjoy," he said. "What I didn't realize was that while we were shooting the breeze, he was also talking about college and the steps I needed to take so that I'd be prepared to move on."
In Richmond, Jackson and his wife decided they both wanted to go back to school-he for a master's degree in school counseling and she for a master's degree in speech pathology. The right programs for both of them turned out to be offered at Longwood.
In 2006, both Jackson and his wife resigned from their teaching positions, packed up their belongings and relocated to Farmville.
"Longwood's programs really give you a family feel," he said. "My classes were small, which meant I wasn't competing for attention. Because of that environment, my professors were really willing to open up about their own experiences in counseling. I think I learned as much from listening to them talk about their experiences as I did from reading my textbooks."
Two years later, degrees in hand, Jackson and his wife realized they had no interest in returning to New England. Virginia was home. When a position for Jackson opened up at Nottoway High School, it meant the couple could remain in Farmville, a town they now love. Jackson is fond of saying that they're big-city people who inadvertently discovered the joys of small-town life.
"After high school, I always had it in my head that I'd enjoy being a high-school guidance counselor," he said. "I just wasn't sure how to go about it. Now I know. There's no one right path for everyone. The key is to remain open to the possibilities."