Prof Alsbrook-Jackson

Student at PCCC Library

FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS TO COLLEGE PROFESSOR


“I am so blessed to be me,” said Nina-Louise Alsbrook-Jackson, an English professor at Passaic County Community College (PCCC).  “I have good health, a caring husband, a close family, and a secure teaching job that I love. I’m blessed beyond understanding.”

 

 

Professor Nina-Louise Alsbrook-Jackson
Photo: Mark Hillringhouse


It is actually easy to understand why the 29-year-old professor feels so fortunate. She has been teaching at PCCC for the past six years, and last September became tenured. A few months prior, she married longtime friend Sammy Jackson, a budding graphic artist, and on March 20, she was one of seven local women to receive the “Dedicated to Service, Committed to Progress” award from Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. (Iota Alpha Sigma Chapter), a North Carolina-based international community service organization historically dedicated to African American achievement.


Energetic, sharp, and funny, Alsbrook-Jackson responded in typical direct style when asked how she reacted to the news of the award.  “I’m shocked, humbled, and overwhelmed,” she declared.  “As a teacher, you just do what you do every day; you don’t think about whether anyone is watching.”  The professor, who is not a member of the organization, was among the honorees at the inaugural Women’s Day Brunch ceremony in Haledon.  According to Epistolus Qulonda Stuckey, a spokeswoman for the Iota Alpha Sigma Chapter, Alsbrook-Jackson was chosen for the award because of her work as an educator, poet, and journalist.  “Professor Alsbrook-Jackson has had the ability to turn her passion for writing into a pedagogical belief that refocuses education back to being a student-centered profession and away from test scores and the business of academics,” said Stuckey in an interview.


Growing Up in Montgomery Gardens
Alsbrook-Jackson grew up in The Montgomery Gardens Housing Complex of Jersey City, supported by single mother, Jacqueline V. Alsbrook.  “My mother was very forward thinking,” said the professor. “She made the tough choice to live in public housing, so she could afford to send me to private schools.”   Though her parents had divorced when she was very young, Alsbrook-Jackson said her father, Thomas Alsbrook, also maintained a strong connection to his daughter’s life. “He was involved and supported my endeavors,” she said.  Young Nina-Louise, the namesake of her grandmother and great-grandmother, attended Assumption/All Saints Elementary School and St. Dominic Academy High School in Jersey City. As if the demands of private school weren’t enough, the young girl attended a precollege enrichment program called Pre-CAP, on Saturdays and during the summer, at the insistence of her mother.


She went on to earn her BA and MA in English Literature from St. John’s University while her mother, who worked and attended St. Peter’s College, pursued her own education, earning an MA in Education- Administration and Supervision. “We graduated on the same weekend,” laughed Alsbrook-Jackson, who noted that her persistent mother is currently studying for another master’s degree in Reading.


From Journalist to Educator
Prior to completing her graduate studies, Alsbrook-Jackson was employed as a staff reporter for the Staten Island Advance, and later worked in the production department of the Jersey Journal, a daily newspaper in Jersey City.  However, journalism was not meant to be her ultimate path. While at the Jersey Journal, she was invited to teach a course as an adjunct instructor at St. Peter’s College. The invitation came from Dr. Robert Perry, a scholar in the College’s Public Policy department, Director of Pre-CAP, and a longtime family friend whom Alsbrook-Jackson regards as a mentor. “I had known him since I was a child, she remarked. “He saw teaching potential in me and encouraged me to try.”


The young woman taught her first course in African American literature, and the experience changed her life. “I was sold on teaching,” she declared. “Seeing the result of what you do, seeing the look on a student’s face when he or she really got what I was saying, nothing else could replace that.”


Determined to be an educator, Alsbrook-Jackson used the MA she earned in 2003 and immediately applied for a teaching position at PCCC, through what was then called the Minority Scholar Program. She was hired that August, taught for a year through the program, which she describes as “an educator-in-training type of arrangement,” and became a full-time faculty member in 2004.


“I feel a great loyalty to this school,” said Alsbrook-Jackson. “They invested in me and trusted me to teach their students, when I was a 23-year-old who had just earned my MA. How many schools would have shown that willingness?”


The young professor expressed particular admiration for Professor Linda Bakian, chairperson of the English Department. “She gave me great freedom to design my classes and really supported me as I found my way,” said Alsbrook-Jackson. She also cited English professor Elaine Harrington (now emeritus) and Humanities professor Martin Bookbinder for their attentive mentoring, and  helpful comments on matters of professionalism.


A Renaissance Woman Motivated to Give Back
Dynamic and fiercely devoted to her students, Alsbrook-Jackson teaches literature and film at PCCC on behalf of the Urban Pre-College Consortium, with a special focus on themes of feminism and the African American experience in each. She also teaches writing and is the Writing Skills I level leader in the English Department, striving to improve the skills for students deficient in that area by expanding developmental projects and tutorial support. 


Alsbrook-Jackson, who describes herself as “very spiritual” is also a poet, rooted in an oral tradition. “Every poem is a performance piece,” she says of her not-yet-published works. “I consider myself more of an orator than a written-word poet, as of right now.”  She often creates her poetry upon commission for particular occasions, such as a church celebrations, women’s history events, or a keynote address. 


Ambitious to continue her post-graduate education, Alsbrook-Jackson aims to attend Harvard one day to study with prominent African American scholar, Dr.  Henry Louis Gates. “I like his perspective on Black literature and culture,” she explains. “He’s complete. I want a perspective that’s complete, not angry.”


Discussing her dream of studying with Gates, prompts the professor to remark again how fortunate her life has been. “Plenty of kids have potential, but no opportunity to develop it,” she said. “I could have been one of them, but I had my opportunity. Now it’s time for me to help others have that chance.”      ***