‘It’s what I love to do’ Jacobs named South Dakota Professor of the Year

'It's what I love to do' Jacobs named South Dakota Professor of the Year Dr. Geralyn M. Jacobs meets with U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, a native of Vermillion, in his Washington, DC office. Jacobs traveled to Washington to accept the CASE 2002 South Dakota Professor of the Year award. by Brian Humphrey Dr. Geralyn M. Jacobs, professor of early childhood education at The University of South Dakota, has reason to smile.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) tabbed Jacobs as the 2002 South Dakota Professor of the Year. The ceremony took place last fall at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

"I hope that the award will give a little more recognition to the field of early childhood. Our field deals with birth through age 8 and I'm just convinced that is the most important time in a person's life. I'm hoping the award will give a little more recognition to the importance of that time in a person's life," Jacobs said. "Nobody needs to tell anybody how important history or physics or math is but a lot of people still don't understand how important early childhood is, so that's what I'm hoping will be an outcome in this.

"This is a nice confirmation that the work is important," she said.

While in the nation's capital, Jacobs received more than just the award. She not only met Sens. Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson, but Daschle included a 270-word tribute to Jacobs in the Congressional Record.

"Senator Daschle read a little something about me into the Congressional Record which I thought was so nice. It was nice meeting both of them. They were both so kind," Jacobs said.

The senators weren't the only people to congratulate her.

Other faculty and many of her students, past and present, have shown their caring through cards and gifts of all kinds.

One contribution that sums up her experience would be a plaque from her students which reads: 100 years from now it will not matter what my bank account says, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

"They've been great; they gave me that plaque and I've gotten cards from them so it's been great. I know they have enjoyed it," Jacobs said.

Jacobs has 30 years of work experience. She has taught in elementary schools in major cities, including Cincinnati, Tampa and New Orleans. She has also taught at the college level and in Vermillion. Since 1995, Jacobs has been at The University of South Dakota where she instructs early childhood education courses and student teaching curriculum. She teaches both graduate and undergraduate students.

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National recognition isn't new to her. Jacobs has had six articles published in national peer-reviewed journals, as well as numerous regional publications. Jacobs has also directed a pair of videos and produced a CD-ROM entitled Inclusion: Celebrating Children's Successes which deals with including children with special needs into integrated classroom settings.

"We know that you learn so much just from the people around you and from the expectations of people. If they are in a regular classroom, they are learning from all of those kids around them so they get good models," Jacobs said. "I think the whole idea is to individualize as much as you can for every child and try to figure out what are their needs and how can you best help them. I think that's the key to look at each child as an individual and look at their strengths and where they need to proceed from there."

Jacobs has done more than work on impressive education projects. She has also given presentations at all levels: national, regional, statewide and at the School of Education.

Jacobs keeps busy by serving on a number of committees. She is chair of the Head Start Grantee Board and serves as president of the South Dakota Association for the Education of Young Children.

She is also a member of the Teacher Education Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for the Birth to 8 Program at SDSU.

"I love teaching. I really try hard; I put a lot of time into it. It's what I love to do," Jacobs added.

Jacobs graduated from the University of Dayton with a bachelor of science degree in 1973. She continued her education at The University of South Dakota, receiving her M.A. in 1991 and her Ed.D. in 1993.

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