Jessica Major’s favorite motto is, “Be the change that you wish to see.” In 2009, two years before she arrived at Port Allen Middle School, the school was on the Louisiana Department of Education’s Academic Watch list for low achievement. They’d had four principals in four years, and 900 student disciplinary actions. The school had to take action.
In 2011, Port Allen Middle adopted TAP: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement. An initiative of the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), the TAP System creates an environment of increased teacher leadership, ongoing professional development, educator observation, sharing and feedback, and competitive compensation.
Major, who grew up in the community, joined the school as a TAP master teacher. In this role, she serves as an integral part of the leadership team with mentor teachers, other master teachers, and administrators to drive instructional improvement and student learning schoolwide. As a result of Major and her team’s work, by 2013, disciplinary actions were down to 200, while test scores had jumped by almost 22 points—the highest ever in the school’s history. Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White took notice and sent 15 of his department members to observe and videotape her for the benefit of other teachers across the state.
Major’s responsibilities are focused on math and science, while providing support to other subjects. She’s credited with meticulously planning strategic improvements during the school’s quickly changing curriculum upgrades, and during the state’s evolving assessments. With her inexhaustible work ethic, she analyzes data, performs research and leads TAP System professional development “cluster” meetings, while consistently modeling strategies to advance student learning growth. Her goal is to ensure that teachers are equipped to move all students forward. In 2013, Port Allen Middle School was named a Top Gains School by the Louisiana Department of Education, and received the TAP Ambassador Award from NIET in 2014.
As dean of students, Major is on several school committees (Leadership Committee, SAT team member and cheerleading sponsor), as well as district committees (4-H leadership board for youth development and West Baton Rouge Teacher Focus Group); she is also the school’s science fair coordinator and stays long hours after school and on weekends. Beyond the school, district and state, Major has become a strong representative for the TAP System, serving on national TAP panels from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Her training methods and implementation techniques are used as examples by NIET year-round.
Major holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education from Louisiana State University in 2006 and a Master of Education from Grand Canyon University in 2010.