Barbering teacher’s personal touch makes her a cut above the rest

CHICAGO -- At Simeon Career Academy on the South Side, the art of the haircut is Marla Jackson's specialty, but her priority is her students’ welfare. The combination of the two has earned her a huge fan base, and recognition from WGN as our latest Teacher of the Month.

“In this school I am theirs! In this school they are mine, and I listen to them and I think that is the number one thing to listen, and two, just encourage the kids to have another skill,” Jackson said.

Marla Jackson’s been in the industry for 26 years, running her own business. But three years ago, she came to Simeon to share her skills with the students who choose barbering as a major. For three periods a day, they sharpen their own skills. Before they get to the shop, the students begin learning their craft in the classroom. It includes lessons in anatomy, infection control and microbiology.

“When you are dealing with students and you are dealing with kids you have to be patient,” Jackson said.

It’s her patience and natural connection with the students that inspires Reginald Norman, the Simeon junior who nominated Ms. Jackson for the Teacher of the Month award.

“She’s just down to earth, real nice tone and always optimistic and happy about everything,” Norman said.

By the end of senior year, the barbering majors will have accrued 1,500 hours in the lab, and they’ll be ready to take the state licensing exam. It’s a curriculum designed to prepare them for a post-secondary school career, and provide an opportunity to earn an income during college.

“When you get out of high school, and you don’t have the money for tuition, that can really help you a lot,” Norman said.

Saint Xavier University awarded Ms. Jackson $1,000 in recognition of her work.

“She reaches them in their personal lives and makes their lives better, and she’s very positive and upbeat and gives them a sense of hope,” said Associate Professor Peter Hilton, Saint Xavier University.