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Georgia’s 2018 High School Assistant Principal of the Year : TAMMY JACOBS

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story by Kathryn Vandenhouten
photos by Shelia Scott
The Georgia Association for Secondary School Principals has named South Effingham High School’s Tammy Jacobs as the Assistant Principal of the Year for 2018. She is both honored and humbled at the distinction, and she is excited for another new school year as a Mustang.
     This is her seventeenth year with SEHS, and she has come a long way. She got her start as a math teacher, and she taught for five and a half years before accepting the assistant principal and testing coordinator position. This will be her sixth year as the instructional supervisor and assistant principal.
Jacobs has always had a heart for leadership. When she was younger, she may have been labeled as “bossy,” but even as a child, she always gravitated toward leadership roles. “I like to think outside the box. I like to think of new ideas. I like to be as innovative as possible,” she says. “I knew that with those qualities, I’d be a good leader, but I didn’t expect to get out of the classroom so soon.”
Though she had only been teaching for five years, she was ready to jump in and take the reins in administration. “I thought that I’d be in the classroom about ten years, but the opportunity presented itself and I couldn’t say no,” explains Jacobs.
SEHS Principal, Dr. Mark Winters, saw potential in Jacobs early in her career, and she has met and exceeded his expectations as an administrator. “It’s more than just her dedication to the job,” says Winters. “She is very creative. She’s always looking for ways of improving not just what comes in her realm of responsibility, but whatever is good for the school.”
Winters has known Jacobs ever since she was a student in his ninth grade English class at ECHS. “She’s just a very extraordinary person, and you say these things about educators being compassionate and caring, which is so true, but hers is just so much above and beyond, and she gets the big picture,” says Winters. “I’ve worked with so many different administrators over the years, and she is just someone who really has that panoramic view of the school,” he adds.
In fact, Winters felt she was so deserving of the title, he filled out her Assistant Principal of the Year application himself. Not only was Jacobs in shock to be a finalist, but she was surprised that she was entered in the first place.
When she got the call from GASSP, she was quite confused at first. She didn’t know why they were contacting her about an application she had never filled out. She had no idea that Dr. Winters had filled out the application for her.
“He asked me one day at the very beginning of the school year a question about something I had done back in the day, but I had no idea he was questioning me because he was doing the application for me for GASSP,” she recalls. “So it was a surprise, and I’m very humbled that he took the time with his busy schedule to do that.”
And as surprised as she was to be in the running, she was even more shocked when she won. “I was surprised to say the least,” says Jacobs. “I did not think I’d go as far as I did.” The interviews for the finalists were especially nerve-racking, but she kept her composure, and it worked in her favor.
Jacobs is proud to be a Mustang, and for good reason.  SEHS is not just the school where she works; it is her alma mater, and she takes her school pride seriously. She was a member of the first graduating class of SEHS, and she feels just as excited to be a Mustang now as she did when the school was brand new. “I wanted to be a part of the first graduating class because we were starting something and it was so exciting,” she recalls.
Her excitement and school pride have only grown. The Mustang motto has changed since she graduated.  From “A New Tradition of Excellence” to “The Legend Lives,” the school slogan has evolved with the school itself. What started out as a “New Tradition of Excellence” has now grown into an exceptional school program in which students are given the tools and opportunities to succeed.
“I want to make sure that we can leave a legacy and that the kids that leave here are going to go make their mark on the world,” says Jacobs. “They’re going to be a better person for being at this school, so I have a lot of school pride. I’m very proud to be a Mustang.”
Since Jacobs became assistant principal, she has implemented various programs to facilitate positive change for both faculty and students. Instructional focus, Mustang Mentors, after school tutorials, AP crash courses and dropout prevention are some of the programs that are particularly important to her.
Though the dropout rate at SEHS is low, Jacobs wants to see all of her students graduate and is impacted whenever that doesn’t happen. “Can I tell you the most difficult part, and I will lose sleep over this at night, are those kids that we feel like we can’t get to,” she says.
She has overcome many obstacles along the way, but she says she has grown from every challenge. From the challenges of being a young administrator to balancing work, continuing her education, and raising a family, Jacobs says she could not have accomplished it without the support of those around her.
Her faith, family, friends and coworkers have made all the difference. “I have a huge support system,” she says. “I think it’s the love and support of people around you. Knowing that I have a principal that supports me one hundred percent and allows me to be innovative and allows me to do things makes it worthwhile.”
When she is not at the school, she spends as much time as she can with her husband, Bryan, and their three-year-old twins, Isaac and Asher. Playing with them and watching them grow have become her  favorite hobby.
She is currently an Educational Specialist, and she plans to start working on her doctorate next year. Her ultimate goal is to become a principal. “I feel like I still have a lot to bring to the table, and I’d love the opportunity to be a principal,” she says.
As much as she loves her role in administration, the one thing she misses the most is the close relationship she had with her students when she was in the classroom. With over 1,600 students at SEHS, she doesn’t know each student quite as well, but she still refers to them all as “my kids,” and their success is important to her.
When asked the best advice she could give them to succeed, she refers to a poster that was in her classroom. It read: “Let the choices I make today be the consequences I can live with tomorrow.” It is a slogan that sticks with her to this day.  “Make good choices and learn from the bad choices made,” says Jacobs. “That’s how you grow.”
Jacobs has certainly grown as an educator as well as an administrator. From student, to teacher, to assistant principal, she has truly come full circle at SEHS. And she plans to keep going as far as her ambition and her talents will take her.
As another school year begins, she is excited to continue her job of supporting the faculty and students at SEHS. Winning 2018 Assistant Principal of the Year has been an honor for Tammy Jacobs, but working at the school she loves is the true honor.

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