“Young People Have the Power to Make Positive Change” – Meet Jackie Macy

A photograph of Jackie Macy in profile - a Latina woman with long wavy hair wearing a black graduation gown and holding a red flag. She looks pensively away from the camera.

Learning in the Making is a video series where we invite guest hosts of color on as equal and valued partners and collaborators, so that they can tell their stories and showcase the amazing things they are making and doing! In addition to learning with our guests through video project guides, we also interview our hosts to learn a little bit more about them.

In this post, Maker Ed chats with Jackie Macy: a former middle school math and science teacher, undocumented immigrant, and mom. Create with her in Learning in the Making: Mindfulness Glitter Jars!

Tell us a bit more about yourself!

My name is Jacqueline Macy though I go by Jackie. I was born in Mexico City but raised in Los Angeles, California. I moved to the Bay Area in 2008 when I got accepted into Mills College. This is where I fell in love with the Bay and education. Through Teach for America, I became a teacher in a middle school in East Oakland. I loved it! I taught 6th grade math and science for four consecutive years. Through this experience, I realized that I had a passion for hands-on learning. I realized that my students acted out in class because they were bored. They did not want to sit in their seats for over an hour while I lectured at them and they took notes and/or filled out worksheets. They wanted to experience their learning! With the support of mentors, coaches, and colleagues, I was able to rethink and revamp my teaching. I began making. I tried my best to incorporate making in every math and science lesson that I was able to. Today I have moved back to Los Angeles and am a full time mom. Still, I could not seem to get away from teaching. Throughout my pregnancy, I tutored and still continued to incorporate making into my lessons. Once my son was born, I did take a brief break from teaching. Until he was about 3 months old. Now he is my full time student. I love creating with him. He is currently 20 months old and we spend the day creating and exploring the world around us. 

A photograph of Jackie holding her son as a baby.What’s one thing about yourself that you think is important for others to know? 

I am undocumented. I was one of the few undocumented educators in the Bay Area back when I started teaching. I was fortunate enough to be able to apply and obtain DACA status in 2012 when President Barack Obama first announced it. The reason I believe this is important for others to know is because a lot of my students were undocumented themselves. I needed them to know that there are many of us out there. I remember how lonely and isolating it was for me growing up. I always felt like I was the only undocumented person out there. I was taught to keep quiet and never share my status with anyone. It was tough. Constantly being told no, and feeling that you are not loved and wanted in the country you call home can be detrimental to your hopes, dreams, and self esteem. I made sure to share my status with my students every year in hopes that students would reach out if they needed to. I wanted to be someone they can relate to and feel comfortable being themselves with. 

Jackie, a Latina woman, sits at the front of a classroom. She is wearing a school uniform polo shirt and writing something down.What excites you most about your work? 

The moment when a concept just clicks, is what excites me most about my work. I love trying to come up with different ways to explain a concept. The beauty of it is that there are so many different ways one can explain and show a concept. The challenge is figuring out which works for what student. The best part is actually finding the explanation that students can relate to and understand. 

Why do you make? 

I make because it works. In my teaching experience, making has been the most effective form of teaching for my students. I have had the most success with student interaction, involvement, and interest when we make. I feel like many of us grew up being told no: No, don’t take that apart. No, because you are going to make a mess. No, because you are going to get hurt. I feel like making cultivates the creative and curious minds that young people have. It embraces it rather than suppresses it. 

What dreams do you have for young people? 

My dream for young people is for them to be self-advocates. I want young people to speak up for themselves so that no one can ignore or take advantage of them. I want young people to realize that they have the power to make positive change. 

If you could share one word of advice to give to other educators, what would it be? 

There is no such thing as a “bad student.” I heard this phrase many times as an educator and it is simply not true. All students want to learn. They just have not been taught in a way that makes sense to them. Get to know your students. Learn what gets them excited. What are their likes and passions and incorporate that into your teachings. Though it might take more work, it is completely worth doing. 

Are there other makers and/or educators in your community whose work you’d like to promote?

Michelle Mush Lee, amazing poet and CEO/Founder of Whole Story Group, LLC. Their focus is the integration of storytelling. 

Yehimi Cambrón, an artist/activist whose art focuses on celebrating the humanity, resilience, and contributions of immigrants (on Instagram: @ycambron)




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