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Gwinnett math teacher uses humor to connect with students one problem at a time

Every day is a holiday in Mr. Jackson's Calculus class.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A lot of students probably wish they could just forget calculus. It's a hard math class that takes a lot of work. 

The students in BJ Jackson's calculus class said they'll never forget how their teacher taught them to succeed. 

In Gwinnett County, Jackson is leaving a lasting impact on students at Mill Creek High School.

Jackson knows calculus is hard. He said that's the point and he wants to teach the kids in his class how to do hard things while having a good time. 

"If it's derivative time, it's the slope of the tangent line, if it's calc test week, take a derivative for me," he said. 

Every day is a holiday in Mr. Jackson's Calculus class.

He sent home an email for "Take a Chance" Day. He wrote it to the tune of Abba's hit song. 

"I can't sing, sorry," he said in the email.  

He might not be able to sing, but he can teach kids to care about calculus. 

"I want you to take this thought process, and apply it to whatever you want to be great at because be great at something. It doesn't have to be math. You can be great at plumbing. If you're great at something, you're going to make a great living and have fun doing it. Don't try to be average," he said.  

Jackson is anything but average. 

He spends 45 minutes a day getting his homework emails to his students just right.

"Some of them I spent a little more time than I should. But if someone gets a little bit of fun out of it during a pandemic, it's worth it," he said. 

He also sends a welcome to calculus letter home to each of his students. 

"I know we can do it an email, but I'm old, and I don't think an email is personal," he said. 

At the end of the school year, he makes sure to send a handwritten thank you note to every student in his class. 

He doesn't think acknowledgement from teachers should be reserved for only the highest performing students. 

"I would hate to be the kid who didn't get one. So I make sure all my kids get one," he said. 

He also tells the kids a joke of the day, every day and wears his funny ties. 

"This one is my most traveled tie. I mean, math teacher, so Pie Tie," he said. 

However, it's not about the funny ties or the rhyming emails. It's about connecting with kids and making sure every one of them feels like they matter.

Even the kids who don't get straight A's, he said. 

"If everyone made an A in my class, I didn't challenge you. I want everyone to become a problem solver," he said. 

What's incredible about Mr. Jackson is that he doesn't think what he's doing is that special... he said "I'm just a guy, in a room, teaching math."

But to the students who take his calculus class, he's a lot more than that. 

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