Dr. Thompson: Jr. Achievement Teacher-of-the-Year

Evan Schubert, Reporter

A doctorate degree is the highest level of academic degrees. Everyone is familiar with the medical doctor, who holds an M.D. (Medical Doctorate). But you can earn a doctorate in almost any subject area.

Anyone accredited with the title of “Doctor” is ultimately respected more professionally, regardless of their field, and has already achieved more academically than 98.32% of the American population. Dr. Jennifer Thompson, our very own MTSS (Multi-Tier System of Support) Curriculum and Innovation Counselor, has achieved more than she thought she could in a childhood filled with hard times and a lack of support. She should not have made it to where she has, and her ability to get here is what makes her just so fitting to inspire students to fulfill what they potentially could be.

Thompson was born and raised here in Tucson. In 1994, Dr. Thompson’s mother was arrested and taken out of her life. Her siblings were forced to work at her aunt’s restaurant to assist her father with rent. At the young age of 14, she had almost complete guardianship of her younger sister.  They lived on their own for the majority of her high school career, and she had to pay for the two of them to get along out of her own pocket. Thompson said, “I’ve been an “adult” ever since I can remember.  My parents divorced in 1984, I was only 3.  As the oldest female, it was always my job to care for my older brother and younger sister.”  Despite the adversity she faced, Thompson graduated 3rd in her class with a 4.0 from Catalina Magnet High School here in town, just being short of her peers with 4.1’s due to a lack of tougher classes she regretted not taking.

Her work paid off as she earned a scholarship to any state school in Arizona of her choice, and although she chose NAU, it was too tough on her sister for her to be away, so she finished her undergraduate degree in Tucson. After finishing her four-year degree, she went directly into grad school and earned her Masters in Education. She knew all her life that she wanted to teach, and she began the first five years of her career at the middle school level and later transferred here to Sahuaro.  In late 2008, she decided she had to earn more money and didn’t have time for multiple jobs now that she had her own family to raise, so she went back to school to earn her PhD. “It was a long, incredibly difficult and trying endeavor. PhD’s are not for the faint of heart.” She initially planned on teaching courses to college students online so that it did not take her away from her young daughter as she earned her degree in K-12 studies. She then was offered a job at Grand Canyon University where she would be for the next two years as an adjunct professor. “It’s a privilege assisting current and future teachers to better their practice and earn Masters degrees.”

Today, Dr. Thompson has a new role after adding two new degrees to her resume. “I love teaching and being in the classroom.  No two days were ever the same when I taught mathematics.  The students are what make the difference.  Learning how each student interpreted the content, whether it was Algebra 2 or Mathematical Finance, made my time in the classroom very interesting. This is my first year out of the classroom as the MTSS Facilitator at Sahuaro.  While I miss the interaction and getting to know a larger number of students, I am looking forward to putting  my  skills to use in other facets of my career as an educator.”

Today, Dr. Thompson has a loving husband who is a nurse at St. Mary’s hospital in ICU and together they are raising their two children, 12-year-old daughter Kadin, and 1-year-old son, Lucas.  ‘There is an 11 year age gap between them, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.  Kadin loves her little brother and he adores her.  Our daughter is an aspiring artist and our son has been walking since he was 9.5 months old.  They’re both the highlight of our day and we look forward to the adventures they will bring us along the way.”  

She just recently won the Junior Achievement Teacher of the Year Award this last month. Junior Achievement is a non-profit organization that teaches students how to create financial stability and manage it. The volunteers who come into the classrooms are working professionals who are able to share their real-life experiences with the students. “As for earning the award, Junior Achievement (JA) came in to all 5 of my Mathematical Finance classes.  They taught my students 7 different lessons about personal finance. I worked with the volunteers to deliver the material.  This was the second year I partnered with JA to deliver these valuable lessons to my students.” Dr. Thompson is back and better than ever and we are extremely pleased to have her a part of our Sahuaro Cougar family.

To learn more about junior Achievement: http://www.jaaz.org/who-we-are/.