Expert Bio: JaMonica Marion
"Children are like light bulbs: they come in different shapes, sizes and wattage, but need the same kind of outside source to illuminate. Educators turn on a light bulb!"
JaMonica Marion works for Chicago School system and has a Bachelor's in Elementary Education and a Masters in Educational Technology. A Chicago native, JaMonica spent her summers working hard on her family's farm in Yazoo County, Mississippi, where she learned the importance of being dedicated as well as the meaning of the phrase "from farm to table." Although she had no idea at the time, 20 years later her childhood farming experiences would give birth to a successful career as an Agricultural Instructor. An extra-added twist to her amazing adventures in education is that she is teaching at her Alma Mater-- Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.
What a great story you have JaMonica! What made you want to become a teacher?
I’ve always wanted to be an educator. Growing up, I enjoyed playing teacher with my younger cousins. To this day, they still tease me about making them do homework and calling it “play”.
As a child on the farm, my great-grandfather taught me Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”. What this verse means to me as an educator is that it is my duty to share my knowledge, provide real world experiences, have a listening ear and in some cases parent my students, because at the end of the day, this is what some students are lacking at home. I want my students to look back and know that “Ms. Marion was there for me”.
Can you tell us about your area of expertise in Agricultural Education?
I believe that I have two areas of expertise, agriculture and humanitarian acts. As mentioned above, I have had strong ties to the agricultural industry for over twenty years. Having a career, educating students about agriculture and its importance and sharing my family history is just a joy. I have the opportunity to take two of my life’s joys everyday while educating them on the most important aspect of survival – agriculture.
My second area of expertise is humanitarian acts. I pride myself on helping young people grow mentally, physically and spiritually. On many occasions, I am the only cheerleader for many of my students, by offering a listening ear and cultural experiences. It is also important for me to teach my students the important of giving back. For the past three years, I have been able to do this through a program called Lead2Feed. This is a program that gives students the opportunity to learn about the hunger crisis and develop a plan to attack the issue. This school year, my students looked at the homeless issue in the city of Chicago and created a program entitled “Backpack Foods”.
Backpack Foods was a school-wide initiative where they collected specific items for the backpacks. These items were then packaged and delivered to the homeless people directly. Delivering the items to the homeless directly was important for the students. They wanted see first hand where there items were going and let them, the homeless, know that someone out their cares for them. As a teacher, I feel it is my duty to not only educate the students but also make them aware of issues that are affecting their community and what better way then with – Lead2Feed.
What do you like most about your job?
What excites me the most about my job is seeing my students succeed. This success can be as simple as grasping a concept that s/he was struggling with, obtaining a scholarship or graduating from college.
In your life, how would you define “success?”
Success for me is seeing my student accomplish their goals. Having them come back and share stories with the younger students and how my class and mentorship has prepared them for college and beyond. To me that is success.
What are the highlights of your career as an Agricultural Instructor?
- Across the United States there is a large demand for Agricultural Instructors. As a result, the school has developed the first of its kind at the high school level a series of courses to help with the growing problem
- Becoming a member of the National AgriScience Teacher Ambassador and presenting at three national conferences (National FFA Organization National Convention, High Schools that Works and the Illinois FFA Association Convention)
- Joining the Lead2Feed Educators Advisory Board
- Witnessing my first set of students graduating college
If you could change something in your field, what would it be?
If I had the opportunity to change one thing in the education realm, it would be the cost of tuition. I have witnessed several students return home from college early, because of the lack of funds to pay for college. I believe that students who have shown the academic success should NOT have to pay for college. This is a concept that has been successful in Brazil, France, German and Switzerland for many years, and the United States of American needs to adopt this method- immediately.
At the end of your career, what do you hope to have accomplished?
By the end of my career, I want to have opened up my non-for profit organization that will specialize in humanitarian acts, mentoring and college/university assistance. I believe that if I can share my story, my students share their stories beyond the four walls of a classroom; I can change the youth one person at a time.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
When choosing a career, choose something that will make you happy today and tomorrow.