GED Teacher Makes Lifetime Vocation to ‘Help Others Help Themselves’

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November 7, 2019 by HCDE Communications

Helping others help themselves is a life vocation for 30-year Harris County Department of Education GED teacher Jackie Livingston.

Her commanding presence is mesmerizing, and her class is a theatrical performance of exaggerated movement and knowledge.

Today her community classroom in Spring Branch is abuzz with inferences. Is a truck or a car better? Students orally share their preferences.

“Kiss your brains because you have it going on,” their teacher exclaims.

Now, the moment of truth is at hand.

“Did anyone do their homework assignment?” she asks.

It’s so quiet you can hear the air.

“What is that you say?” asks Livingston. “The dog ate it?  Okay now.”

It’s only week three into class, and her adult learners are building confidence. Slowly, two students turn over their thesis statements. Teacher “Jackie” likes challenge and urges others to follow.

Over the years, she remembers the toughest tests. The student who battled cancer came to class with her life-thread supply of oxygen. An immigrant who knew not one word of English faithfully attended GED class for almost two years before he got his high school equivalency degree. All the while, his family discouraged him.

“Perfect attendance,” Jackie said, smiling at the memory.

Math hater Chris De La Cruz is returning to school after a decade to get his GED for a work promotion as a pipe cutter.

“She’s really patient,” said De La Cruz, 29. “When I find things are difficult, she explains.”

In Ms. Jackie’s class, students work together to solve equations and answer reading passages. She encourages collaboration. That’s the way of the workforce, she says.

HCDE Adult Education Manager May O’Brien said Livingston has never complained about completing the tedious, mandatory attendance reports. She also calls students to encourage regular attendance. Livingston goes above-and-beyond by encouraging students to become members of the Texas Association of Literacy and Adult Education, where they can earn GED scholarships for test registration.

Although GED classes are free on a first-come, first-served basis, tests can prove costly to students if they are taken repeatedly.

Livingston encourages students to take practice tests to prove they’re ready. That’s just half the battle. She must follow up and encourage hesitant students to take the test plunge.

Over the years, she’s tried to retire. Retirement just doesn’t stick.

“I’m just passionate about helping others,” she said. “When you get that ah-ha moment, it’s rewarding to the students and to me as well. I can do something to help someone else, and that’s all I know.”

HCDE Adult Education Adult Education is the largest, no-cost adult education program in Texas, with a variety of health care and construction career training options in Harris and Liberty counties. Students may also take English as a second language classes and high school equivalency degree classes simultaneously in a traditional classroom setting or online. For more information, go to

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