To say that Dr. Mary V. Perkins-Jacobs is passionate about education would be an understatement. After 35 years as an educator, she continues to make lasting change in her students’ lives as the JAG Specialist at Little Rock Southwest High School.

The JAG Career Association, a program sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Career Education, offers leadership and career development, social and civic awareness and community service to students. For Perkins-Jacobs, who has held a variety of positions in the education field, this role is right in her wheelhouse.

“I enjoy teaching students about real-world applications which include jobs, careers, post-secondary education, financial literacy and life skills.” Her dedication is tangible — from the help she offers students seeking employment and applying for scholarships to the rack of clothing she keeps to provide students with interview outfits.

In fact, two former students nominated her for our Amazing Educator Award. These students give Perkins-Jacobs credit for expanding their world with visits to the governor and trips to Washington, D.C. as well as helping them prepare for college through scholarship applications and interview assistance. One even considered Perkins-Jacobs her “school mom because she always gave us that tough love that we needed when it came to education and skill developing.”

That love goes both ways. After winning the award Perkins-Jacobs shared, “I love my students. I love my job. And as they say, tough love is a caring love. I treat the kids like they are my own.” Her students aren’t the only people who notice Perkin-Jacobs’ outstanding work. The crowded award presentation Zoom was also attended by many colleagues including Little Rock School District Administrator Dr. Danyell Cummings and Superintendent Mr. Michael Poore.

“I am a longtime colleague of Dr. Jacobs and a district administrator and I would just like to say that I know firsthand that Mary Jacobs deserves this award ... You have changed the lives of students over the years,” shared Cummings. Poore was also excited to celebrate Perkins-Jacobs, “I couldn’t wait to recognize an educator that time after time makes a tremendous difference. And the thing that I most admire is that it’s lasting. It keeps on going as kids transition away from the K-12 world, away from high school. That they are in a much better place because of what you bring and the skills that you help them with and the confidence you help them develop. … The confidence level exists because of the way you run your program and the attention you give these young people.”

Perkins-Jacobs grew up in the Arkansas Delta. "In those days, I looked at educators as well-respected and great role models … I also wanted to be able to give back to society and make an impact on someone’s life.” She’s achieved just that, starting with her own family. Her daughter, Kimeka Toya, teaches dance at Southwest. “Yes, we actually work together for the first time, and it’s a joy” said Perkins-Jacobs.