Episode #81: Providing a S.P.I.R.I.T.E.D. Environment Where Students Thrive with Dan Jackson

By Barbara Bray

Join Barbara Bray in conversations with awesome educators, leaders, and influencers as they talk about their passion and purpose for planting seeds for change. Each podcast has a link to a related blog post with more information and resources.

Dan Jackson is an experienced reflective learner and strategic thinker with an ongoing track record of innovative, adaptive leadership in education and business management.

Dan is a high school business and marketing instructor in North Carolina where his students experience entrepreneurial pathways. He professes that he develops thinkers and doers, not test-takers. After all, thinkers and doers drive innovation.
About your story growing up
I was a professional zip code collector from the time I was 9 to 39; 5 states in 30 years, the longest of which was Carmel, Indiana from 2004-2014. Then back close to home where I met my wife, barely graduated high school, and graduated USC Cum Laude. Then we married and worked for three years in the great Carolinas!
What it was like for you as a student
I have very few memories of me as a student from 1st grade to graduation. I generally remember school as a drag. I’d spend more energy making excuses for why I couldn’t go. If the same amount of energy was directed to learning, whoa! This is likely one of the reasons I wanted to become an educator; to help young people create positive memories of their education. Learning should be fun, joyful and memorable. 
Your family
I regularly do value clarification. This year I was inspired to do it from a book recommendation from Tom Hudock, Teaching For Purpose by Heather Malin. There is a great exercise in which the first step is to identify those things that matter the most to you. Without question, it is my family.
I am determined to create a better balance between education and family, for my family’s sake. I have been happily married to my HS sweetheart for 28 years and we have two wonderful teenage boys that are very different, yet compatible. My oldest, Devon, is about to start his Sophomore year at his mother and my alma mater, USC. Our younger one, Ayden is about to start the HS at which his brother left a “real” and “positive” legacy. Ayden will leave his own legacy that he makes, not one that he emulates.

Your first career
Sales and marketing career began when my mom kicked me out of the house after I dropped out of college. Sold clothes during the day and waited tables at night. That is sales and marketing, with the pressure on you at 19 when you have to pay the rent and buy your meals.
Your journey as an educator
My wife reminded me this past June, “you told me at our senior prom dinner you were seriously considering becoming a teacher, but you didn’t think it was correct to teach something you’ve never done and the corporate world had a lot of allure.”
Ted Talk: Hands-On Learning Turns Minds On. | Daniel Jackson | TEDxRaleigh
Your entrepreneur class
Since day one of my formal teaching career, I have been teaching hands-on. I was a student teacher at Carmel High School in Indiana. When assigned, my mentors I asked them if I could have total control of the class with their close supervision. They agreed! Those Carmel HS juniors and seniors worked a semester-long, marketing plan for a brand of their choosing.
I was given a temporary position that had opened up when a teacher left. I took over in January his year-long classes, International Business, and Entrepreneurship. I asked where the Entrep sections were in their business plans. They looked at me with blank stares and said, “what business plan?” I got them energized.
15 years of experience with Hands-on Learning, I’m convinced it is the best way. Here’s a picture of the 2019 DECA Trophy Winners.

Your Mission to create a S.P.I.R.I.T.E.D. Environment
My mission is to provide a S.P.I.R.I.T.E.D. learning environment in which students feel comfortable and confident to strive for their very best.