Jones Elementary literacy teacher Karen Simpson still remembers a saying that one of her elementary school teachers shared with her class.
“She had this phrase: ‘Good, better, best. Never let it rest,’” Simpson said. “That was her way of telling us she believed in us. And to keep trying until your good is better and your better is best.”
Simpson shares that phrase with her students to this day, 10 years after joining Jones Elementary School and 23 years into her career in education after working in Baltimore County. Teaching is all she ever wanted to do.
“I remember being in kindergarten, looking at the teachers and wanting to be that person someday,” Simpson said. “I never wavered on that decision.”
At Jones, she does individual planning, serves as a testing coordinator, and works with grade-level teams, mostly focusing on reading and writing.
“She’s a mentor, a leader and she’s very passionate about literacy,” said Jones Elementary Principal Jim Whisman. “She’s probably my go-to person in the building. Our new teachers go to her for any advice they need.”
She builds connections with teachers and with students, getting to know their hobbies.
“I build connections by finding out what their interests are,” Simpson said. “I ask, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ or ‘What did you do after school?’
“Kids need a teacher for a safe haven, a role model,” she said, adding that college can only prepare a teacher so much for the job. “The part about being a caring human being has to be innate.”
Simpson has brought that empathy to Jones and embodies everything Whisman wants the school to symbolize.
“She is the pillar of Jones,” Whisman said. “We talk about the R’s: respect, responsibility and relationships. She really promotes all three of those, especially relationships. She is a great role model.”
Simpson credits the Jones community for supporting her in everything she does.
“Jones is such a small community,” she said. “The staff and parents are wonderful. They are involved.
“It can be as simple as an email to say their child came home excited about something in the classroom. The PTA has brought a food truck throughout the year as a surprise.”
Simpson was recognized by the Anne Arundel County Board of Education as its Educator of the Month in March 2018, and Whisman believes Simpson has what it takes to be a great assistant principal. She had this advice to share with her fellow teachers.
“We sometimes worry about what we are teaching. That’s important, but before that, get to know the children who are in front of you,” she said. “The teaching will come easier because they trust you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
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