Positive, encouraging, giving, uplifting, and supportive are all words a parent, student, or principal may use to describe their ideal teacher. They are also the words used to describe veteran educator Jacqueline Valentine who has served South Cobb High School students for more than two decades.
“Ms. Valentine is literally one of the most positive and encouraging individuals I’ve ever met in my life,” declared South Cobb Principal T.J. Perry. “She constantly gives and gives to make sure others are taken care of whether it’s her students or even staff members.”
Principal Perry knows first-hand that Ms. Valentine has a gift at helping people see situations differently. He once shared some discouraging news while he stopped in to visit during her planning period, and she took the time to talk him through it.
“By the time I left, I was a new person from her words of encouragement and support. She has that spirit about her to get you to pour your heart out and then will uplift you in such a way you will feel like you can take on anything,” Principal Perry explained.
The CTAE teacher, who always wears a smile, praises her colleagues and students for their achievements and successes, like the school’s resident cheerleader.
Some of her cheerleader spirit carried over from her prior position as South Cobb’s head cheerleading coach and her own time as a high school cheerleader in New York.
Even before the native of Kingston, Jamaica brought her encouraging gifts to South Cobb High School, she was serving students elsewhere in Cobb. She did her student teaching at Walton High School, followed by three years helping students at Dodgen Middle School. However, she has long been at home in the Eagle’s Nest of South Cobb.
“I have shared my blood, sweat, and tears (literally) serving at South Cobb in many different capacities for 21 years,” Ms. Valentine said.
The veteran educator raised three of her own South Cobb Eagles. Her son Jason L. Richardson graduated in 2005 from South Cobb and is now working in cyber security in Japan. His brother Julian L. Richardson, South Cobb Class of 2008, is an emergency medicine doctor in Fresno, California, and a graduate of South Cobb’s Academy of Research and Medical Sciences magnet program. Her youngest South Cobb graduate (Class of 2012), Jordan M. Richardson, serves as a healthcare administrator in Washington, D.C.
Her sons’ South Cobb graduations were some of her proudest days as an educator. That love and guidance she gave her own children has carried over to all the South Cobb students who have ever stepped into her class. Many of her students fondly refer to the former South Cobb Teacher of the Year as “Mama V.”
Some students, like 12th grader Isyss, have taken all “Mama V.’s” classes. There are no more classes Isyss can take with her beloved teacher, but that doesn’t stop her from coming back. Isyss visits her former teacher at least once a week even though her current classes are located nowhere near “Mama V.’s” classroom.
“She is the one teacher that watched me grow my whole high school career, so the only teacher I feel that knows me,” Isyss explained.
Thanks to Ms. Valentine, Isyss is ready to take on job interviews and has already created her own business plan. While in her classes, Isyss heard from people in the business world and listened to the South Cobb teacher detail real-world experiences, examples Isyss plans to take with her after she graduates and enters the business world herself.
“My passion is getting them ready for the next level of their lives. That is why I enjoy teaching high school,” Ms. Valentine revealed.
She loves to see the results after they leave her classroom and graduate from South Cobb. More so, she loves when they come back and say, “I am so successful, thank you.”
One of her favorite memories is when a former student returned to tell her just that. He was a student that some may not have seen as academically successful. However, Ms. Valentine saw something different. She saw potential and gave him what she gives all her students, guidance on how to be successful.
Ms. Valentine fought back tears as she recalled what her former student returned to tell her: “I am in college right now only because you helped me to know the importance of writing, not just in my core classes but in my electives, and how much reading comprehension means. I’m going to be a success in college because I had you as a teacher.”
South Cobb’s “Mama V.” is not the only one touched with emotion by her time at South Cobb.
When Isyss read the college recommendation her teacher wrote for her, she almost cried.
“She is wonderful,” Isyss declared.
Isyss’s views of Ms. Valentine are shared by her fellow South Cobb seniors. Like Isyss, Hannah had the opportunity to present a business plan in Ms. Valentine’s class. In fact, that is one of her favorite memories of the veteran teacher. Ms. Valentine’s reaction to her plan inspired Hannah to believe in herself and know that she could live out her dream as a business professional after high school.
“She has always been that role model to me,” Hannah said. “It is good to have someone that I know that I can ask questions about anything. She is a good teacher.”
Isyss and Hannah’s experiences in her classes are examples of why Ms. Valentine enjoys teaching CTAE classes.
“I love the real-world ethics and the soft skills that they learn,” Ms. Valentine explained. “I also try to make sure my students have an entrepreneurial mindset. So, no matter where they go or what they do, they are thinking about the risk involved. They are thinking about how to innovate and make something better.”
Lonnie transferred to South Cobb his freshman year and points to “Mama V.” as the first teacher he really connected with in the high school. As so many students do, the South Cobb senior has taken more than one of “Mama V.’s” classes. However, it is not her classes that have had impacted Lonnie the most.
“Outside of school, she taught me a lot of life lessons,” Lonnie said.
He has a lot of experience with her in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which she helps lead.
“She has a welcoming heart. Even if you don’t know her, she has a welcoming feeling. She introduces you as one of her own,” Lonnie added. “If you do your part, she will do her part too.”
South Cobb students pick up lots of advice from what their treasured teacher says. There is one piece of advice—beyond believing in themselves—that her students take with them:
“There’s nothing to it but to do it.”