It’s not every day that a CEO returns to his elementary school to honor his favorite teacher with a $25,000 donation – but that’s exactly what Knight Transportation CEO Dave Jackson did.
Jackson presented the donation to Bellair Elementary Principal Jackie Dettorre during a recent school assembly. The donation served to recognize retired first grade teacher Mary Flynn, who taught Jackson and his siblings in the 1980s.
Flynn retired from the Deer Valley Unified School District after 38 years of service. She helped open Bellair Elementary in 1982, where Jackson was a first-grade student.
“Miss Flynn, and the whole team at Bellair when I started, they were just unbelievable,” Jackson said. “They fostered an environment where we were willing to give our very best. We felt their high expectations for us, and somehow it translated to us setting high expectations for ourselves. Many of the things that happened while I was here at Bellair were instrumental in how I viewed myself, which was so important – especially during that time.”
Jackson is the President and CEO of Knight Transportation, the nation’s largest trucking company.
Flynn fondly remembered Jackson as an energetic six-year-old, but a serious student.
“I could imagine him being successful,” she said. “I still have some report cards of his, grade sheets. He was always very serious, very studious and then he would get on the playground and he was a little six-year-old… rambunctious!”
When Flynn taught, her focus was on building relationships and life experiences for her students.
“The relationship is more important than the grades, in my opinion,” she said. “You find what the child is interested in and you teach to that.”
Current students of Bellair Elementary will share in lots of learning experiences thanks to the donation by Knight Transportation. The money was used to buy Dash and Dot systems for each classroom, Principal Dettorre said.
Dash and Dot are robots that can sense, act and think when students use iPads and block coding to program them.
“Not only have they put [the donation] to good use, but the kids seem excited and they’re engaged,” Jackson said. “They’ve already learned new things. It’s creative and it’s relevant to where the economy is and what will prepare them for the future. I couldn’t be happier.”
Dettorre said the robots not only make learning fun but provide a cooperative hands-on approach to problem solving.
“The kids are so excited,” she said. “If they want their robot to do a certain thing, they have to figure out which command to give it. There is a lot of problem solving, and it’s also cooperative teamwork. They usually work in groups of three or four to decide on what to do, to make the robot do what they want.”
Superintendent Curtis Finch said coding with the help of Dash and Dot introduces students to in-demand careers at an early age.
“Computers only do what you tell them to do, so somebody has to tell them what to do and that’s what those Dash and Dot machines do – they teach you how to talk to a computer,” Finch said. “Hopefully, our students get the itch and want to go into that field. We need more engineers, more folks that can code. We are hoping it will get more students pointed in that direction.”