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me with students
me with books
soulcollage at red shoes


Back then, I never dreamed I would teach at the college level, but in 2001, I began my career as an English instructor at Louisiana State University (LSU). 

In 2002, I wrote and received a grant to begin an LSU Service-Learning class with international students, and that experience set me on a course of civic engagement, that is, working to make a difference in the civic life of one's community. It also involves developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values, and motivation to make that difference. These activities enrich the lives of youths and are socially beneficial to the community.

I have always wanted my own classroom. Setting the stage for the future, my father fashioned a childhood classroom for me in a corner of our concrete-walled basement in Royal Oak, Michigan. I couldn't have been more than 10. 

Dad was an expert scavenger and managed to get his hands on both a church pew, which he propped against a wall, and three or four used school-house desks, where my dolls and stuffed animals sat for lessons. 


The coup de grace, though, was a massive sheet of slate, which my father transformed into a blackboard at the front of my makeshift classroom




Read 180 Interventionist at Polk Middle School, Albuquerque, New Mexico


Gifted Seminar and Gifted Caseworker at Polk Middle School, Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • STEAM. This elective—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math—addressed content standards in a practical and real-world context, including a concentration on gardening via the Polk gardens. Students learned to keep science journals. Favorite activities included a unit on the brain and addiction and “Food Fridays.”

  • Leadership. Course goals were to gain a better understanding of our individual leadership styles; articulate the strengths and weaknesses of leaders based on what is known about leadership, including self-analysis of personal leadership behaviors; and study the habits of mind, skills, and values of leaders.

  • Journalism. This elective was an introductory course inherited mid-semester from a teacher who transferred out of Polk. In my half of the semester, the course emphasized daily writing in the form of obituaries, letters to the editor, informational articles, persuasive articles, etc. My goals were to improve student writing and to teach students to produce. Students entered the classroom, located their class folders, opened their Chromebooks, and wrote.

  • Yearbook/Gifted Seminar. Students in this course produced the Polk Middle School yearbook. One gifted student was tasked with photo editing and another with editor-in-chief responsibilities. All students who participated in this course gained skills in page design, copywriting, editing, and photography. In the end, we produced a 45-page yearbook that reflected limited activities during the COVID Pandemic.


Gifted/Talented Teacher at South Valley Academy, Albuquerque, New Mexico

  • Taught an elective course, Passions & Projects, to 9-12 grade G/T students

  • Managed a 14-student IEP caseload and wrote and tracked Individual Education Plans



Instructor, Louisiana State University Independent and Distance Learning

  • Taught Advanced Composition and Business Writing to students from across the country, from nurses seeking to advance their careers to incarcerated prisoners to traditional students


Instructor, Louisiana State University English Department

  • Taught Composition & Rhetoric, Business Writing, and Images of Women in Literature.

  • Developed intercultural service-learning curriculum, Transcending Stereotypes in a Post September 11 World. 

  • Nominated for the 2004 LSU Outstanding Service-Learning Award.




Classroom Protocols & Teaching Strategies

While teaching middle school, it took me longer than I like to admit to realize that I needed to teach students exactly what I expected of them, hence this page explaining my enchantment with learning strategies and protocols.


Some protocols that I think most align with the curriculum goals of an ELA classroom include the Socratic Seminar, Rapid Fire Writing, Exit Cards, Two-column Notetaking, and Concept Maps. Many more admirable teaching strategies can be found on the Facing History and Ourselves webpage, and while I am a fan of many, I try to keep things simple.  

Much is to be said in favor of teaching the classroom protocols and learning strategies that students will access time and again over the academic year. To me, this instruction falls under the categories of “It’s Only Fair,” “Equity,” “Expectations,” “Assessment,” “Modeling,” “Working Smarter/Not Harder,” and “Classroom Management.”  

I learned while introducing science journals in a STEAM course to model my expectations, demonstrate an index, identify the place I expect to find a date and a page number. I suggested spaces for including wonderings, drawings, and findings. I did this because I learned that time did not permit me to continually introduce new approaches or reintroduce the old. 

I also became a fan of anchor charts. It’s wonderful to remind students to look at the “their/there/they’re” chart on the wall and make corrections before turning in their papers. Teaching middle school students is inherently messy and collaborative, and that is why an emphasis on organization is so important to me at this stage of my teaching career.

By February of my first year teaching middle school full time, my students made me proud. Actually, I made myself proud; I had finally mastered some basics! Students knew when and where to collect and return their folders. They could help themselves to paper and pencils without disrupting the entire class. Students knew where to sit, and what to do if they finished early.  I could look at a student’s work and point to an anchor chart, and they knew just what to correct.


Here’s to living and learning! 


Denise Jacobs

June 11, 2022

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