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Jill Major – Taylor Elementary

Jill Major changes lives. She is the most inspired, amazing teacher I have ever worked with. Willing to think outside the box when helping her student, her motto is “all of my students are smart, they just have challenges”.

One year I had two students with severe dyslexia (one had the worst case of it she had ever seen). I showed Jill a “screen reader” that I’d heard about, and when she saw what it could do for her students, she worked to get the funding for it and literally opened the world up to them. They stepped into a world where dyslexia was no longer a barrier between them and what they were capable of understanding. At the beginning of the year, these boys were tender hearted from having everything difficult to read and having that make them feel like they were stupid. That year they realized (and vocalized to me) “I am smart, I just have dyslexia.” They worked on research projects guided by things that interested them, and created presentations as a means to share what they had learned. During conferences when one boy, who was barely able to read at a first grade level read his presentation to his mother that included complex thoughts and sentences ab out his topic, she and I both wept. He began to stand taller, his self-esteem being fed by this wonderful woman who proved to him “he is smart.”

Jill is an amazing colleague to work with, but even more, has been an answer to my own prayers as a mother. My son received an academic diagnosis of autism as well as dyslexia when he was in second grade. My heart ached for my son and I had worry for his future. I know that my son can take patience to work with. However, I also know for complete surety that I send him to be in the care of someone who loves him as a person no matter what. He, too, knows that “Mrs. Major” loves him. He also knows that Mrs. Major will expect him to do what he is capable of doing, and she was able to see that he is a smart kid. Because of her expertise with dyslexia, my son made amazing improvement in reading while in her care.

Jill could see through the autism and the dyslexia to this boy who loved learning about planets and animals and flags and…whatever the latest fixation was. She used his interests to guide his learning. “Oh, you know about codamundays? Well what a coincidence, today’s assignment is to do a report on codamundies!” When he couldn’t stop talking about Minecraft, his daily behavior contract carried a Minecraft theme.

She connects personally with all of her students. She loves them and they know it. She is such a remarkable person to get to work with (and I am a better teacher because of her), that I have her listed as one of my heroes on my teacher web page. She truly changes lives and is an asset to the teaching profession.

–Laura Eliason