Jefferson Dedicates Her Life to Muskogee Youth | Messages
After decades as a teacher and administrator, Lori Jefferson found a suitable new position as a consultant.
“Education and teaching is who I am,” Jefferson said. “Consulting combines all my skills in one. I still work with families. And I also help students to become better citizens for our future.”
Jefferson is an advisor to the Muskogee County Council of Youth Services, MCCOYS.
Her teaching career includes schools in Boynton, Union Public Schools and Muskogee Public Schools. She was principal at Cherokee Elementary, then teacher-parent liaison for MPS. She was also the educational director of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club in Muskogee in the early 2000s.
“I’ve been babysitting since I was 11, so I just really care about children,” she said. “I’ve known since junior high that I always wanted to be a teacher and an educator.”
She called it her legacy.
“My grandmother was a teacher,” she says. “My father worked with troubled youth, youth in the community. Worked with youth in children’s church all my life.”
Jefferson also tries to serve youth through the Noon Lion’s Club and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She said she’s helping to plan an open mic game night for teens at The Break.
“I look forward to taking on more opportunities of this nature,” she said.
She said she wants to get the youth interested in gardening too. Jefferson grows tomatoes, squash, and collards.
“We have a lot of food desert areas in Muskogee,” she said. “I am interested in bringing food to our youth and to our community in general.
different schools, different attitudes
The Boynton, Union, and Muskogee schools each presented a challenge to Lori Jefferson.
She taught several grades at the rural Boynton School.
“It’s a lot to teach English from seventh to twelfth grade,” she said. “Each was a different time, a different period.”
Class sizes went from seven to 20, she said. She recalled teaching a total of 75 students. Small classes made a big difference, she said.
“I think smaller classes are nice to give an opportunity to make an impact,” she said. “I still have some of those relationships to this day.”
Jefferson had more than 27 in every class at urban/suburban union schools. She said students in some high school classes felt privileged.
“I remember they wanted exceptions to the rule,” she said. “The parents felt they could call and make a difference.”
Muskogee Schools had a strong teacher community at Alice Robertson Junior High.
“Mr. Hillmon brought us together when he was there,” she said, referring to the AR director. “The students liked our academic pep talks.”
A… become principal, principal
Jefferson recalled a different experience as a school administrator.
As a teacher educator at Grant Foreman Elementary, she worked with teachers and counselors from various programs. From this came the desire to become a principal.
“Having been in an elemental setting with Principal Vickie Albin, it was something that I thought would suit me well,” Jefferson said. “She had a kind of structure and I found the diplomatic way in which she dealt with teachers and family valuable.”
Jefferson spent four years as principal of Cherokee Elementary. She remembered nominal resources and that she was in a food desert.
“I just wanted to build teacher morale, student morale, and family morale,” Jefferson said. “I wanted to bring all the resources they would need. We had a pantry, a closet, we were about the whole person.”
Her next step as a parent-teacher liaison was to make home visits and locate absent students.
“I was a big supporter of families, and that was seen at the county level,” she said. “It created one of the perfect jobs for me.”
advise youth brings rewards
As an MCCOYS therapist, Jefferson conducts preventive counseling.
“If they do drugs or smoke cigarettes, I counsel them,” she said. “I do a lot of anger management. I’m talking to their teachers, parents. I go to the court and I talk to the court about what they are doing. How they are progressing in their counseling.”
Although many of her young clients have been sentenced by court to counseling, Jefferson said she doesn’t just deal with troubled youth.
“It could be that they just need someone to talk to,” she said.
A major challenge in her work is consistency with out-of-school clients.
“I need to locate her for counseling,” she said. “When they’re in school, it’s a lot easier. When they’re not in school, they find other things they want to do. But I would say overall I have a pretty good group.”
Jefferson said their biggest rewards come from “seeing the lightbulbs,” and they change or improve their behavior.
She said success comes when she has made a connection between youth and family.
“If I feel like they can reach me,” she said. “When I see that smile on her face. If you are happy to see me. It helps me know they appreciate what I bring.”
questions and answers
HOW SHE BECAME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“My roots are here. My mother is actually from Tulsa and Muskogee, 1963 graduate of manual training. It was on her travels with my father that I came about. He’s from the east coast. When I was 4 years old we moved back here to live. My grandfather was from here. My great-grandfather on my grandmother’s side has owned property in the Haskell community since statehood.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“The people. I love the encouraging spirit of the campaign that’s going on. A lot of people are talking about making things better and developing things for all ages.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE?
“For all of us to invest in our community and be a part of what’s going on and have a say in what’s coming next.”
WHICH PERSON AT MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRATE MOST?
“Melonie Carey. We’ve known each other forever. She was our high school teacher and we all loved her so much. I was a student around her. i was a colleague When I came into the school system, she was always this positive force, this smiling face.
“Debra Davis HorseChief. She inspired me so much. She was one of the teachers I got to experience during my internship as a teacher.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING THAT HAPPENED TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“Recently, I was the Muskogee class community hero. I was on the Channel 6 news. That same year, upon my retirement, I received a quote from the mayor for my own day. So 2021 was a turbulent year for me.”
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
“I like being outdoors. I like to play games and i like socializing. I like gardening. I grow some of my own vegetables – tomatoes, collards, squash. I’m a bit of a beginner, but I’m getting there.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUMMARIZE MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“It’s a small community with a city mentality that loves its people and wants to find ways to engage them in improving our communities.”