Ms. Jeanette Payton has made a profound impact at NSU University School for the last 39 years and is one of the dedicated and experienced junior kindergarten teachers and coordinators for our Early Childhood Program where young minds flourish in a student-centered, personalized, and caring environment. She also served as a Camp Coordinator for Camp Nova's Junior Camp for 33 years. Payton's distinguished career has presented her with the special opportunity to teach the children of her former students, providing these children with the same wealth of knowledge and support their parents experienced when their educational journey began at NSU University School.
Payton's passion for early childhood education began when she was a young child herself living in Memphis, Tenn. She used to shadow her aunt who taught at a newly established program called Head Start, which to this day provides services to support the mental, social, and emotional development of children from birth to age 5. Payton found joy in helping the children adjust to a school setting and encouraged them to develop their self-confidence. After obtaining her bachelor's degree in Child Development and Early Childhood Education from Northern Illinois University, she went on to teach and eventually serve as the director for a child care center in Chicago for a total of six years before relocating to Florida with her family. It was during this time she brought her talents to NSU University School and pursued a master's degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education at NSU.
Payton's first 11 years at NSU University School were spent as the team leader of our Early Childhood Program. She then spent the next 17 years teaching kindergarten and three of those years serving as an instructional facilitator to ensure there was consistency in junior kindergarten and kindergarten programming. Currently, as a junior kindergarten instructor and early childhood coordinator, Payton approaches curriculum with a modern-day mindset and incorporates inquiry-based learning in the classroom. "An early start at NSU University School is essential, as it fosters independence in the students and creates the first spark needed for their development as critical thinkers," Payton said. When she initially began her teaching career, each classroom was self-contained, housing different kinds of "centers" for language arts, math, science, etc. Upon coming to USchool, Payton was presented with a progressive learning environment where each classroom had various centers integrated within it. "This presented quite the challenge for me and a marvelous learning situation where I had to view teaching and learning from a child's perspective," Payton said. "This was and has been the most rewarding thing about teaching here at NSU University School."
Throughout Payton's 46 years as an educator, she has committed herself to staying up-to-date with 21st Century industry practices and equipping the next generation of educators who are eager to change lives in the same way she has. On top of having attended the National Association for the Education of Young Children conference and Staff Development for Educators conferences, she has also served as a co-presenter at a Florida Council of Independent Schools conference for a session titled "Hands-On Learning in the Classroom." Moreover, she has trained teachers seeking their Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ and completed a Clinical Training Program that allows her to work with and train student teachers assigned to NSU University School.
This time of year is especially treasured by Payton, as she gets to see students she taught when they were 4 and 5-years-old walk across the stage as NSU University School graduates, ready to succeed in college and beyond. "I am always so proud of them and their accomplishments," Payton said. Perhaps one day these graduates will return back to our school, not as students, but as parents ready to see their "baby sharks" confidently swim on their own. We conclude with the following, heartfelt accolade from one such parent: "There are no words to describe how special it is for me and my family to have had Mrs. Payton not only as my teacher, but as the teacher for both of my children. There is such a comfort and familiarity that I feel every time I step into her classroom. I am forever thankful that my children and I were able to learn from one of the best teachers I have known. Not only is she a wonderful teacher, but an amazing person who is kind, patient and gentle, and someone who you know is there for you unconditionally."