Get to Know Our Teacher of the Year, Jackie Lester

jackie-lesterJackie Lester, ESL teacher at Douglas, was recently named the school’s Teacher of the Year. Read on to get to know a little bit more about Jackie, and be sure to congratulate her if you see her on your next visit to campus!

How long have you been at Douglas? Have you taught ESL the whole time?

This is my fifth year at Douglas. I started my career teaching “English as a Foreign Language” in Chile, my native country.  Then I taught Spanish in Wilson County for about three years. After finishing my master’s degree in ESL and Educational Supervision, I moved to Raleigh.  At the same time, I found an ESL position in a school in Wake County.  I have been in Wake County for about nine years.

What made you decide to become a teacher?

Since I was a little girl, I always taught my friends what I have learned at school. Also, I always liked languages. So, one of my teachers in high school suggested I could explore my options in education.  I took this path and I have never looked back.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love working with students. I learn as much from them as they learn from me. I enjoy seeing their faces light up when they understand something or when they can express themselves in English. It is really amazing!

What is the most challenging thing about being a teacher?

I have never thought about what I do as a “job.”  I truly enjoy coming to school every day, talking to my colleagues, students and parents. Of course, we face challenges every day, not only at school but also personally. However, if I think about what I do for just a minute, I realize I have the best job in the world. I get to teach and guide children in the most important stage of their lives and that makes me happy!

How does it feel to win this well-deserved recognition?

I feel so proud to be part of the Douglas staff.  I am very lucky to work with a wonderful administration, teachers and instructional assistants.  To me, this is the “cherry on the cake” and I am truly honored to have been chosen Teacher of the Year!

Get to Know Mariela Matias

If you’ve ever walked into the front office at Douglas, you’ve met Mariela Matias. She’s the smiling face that greets visitors, helps students and juggles a million other duties each day. This is her first year in this position at Douglas, and if you haven’t already, it’s not too late to welcome her! Read on to learn more about Mariela:

What is a typical day like for you at Douglas?

My typical day at Douglas must start off like any other day, with a cup of coffee! There is never a dull moment at the office. I deal with any correspondence that might come by, answer phone calls, organize, file, and welcome our parents and students, as well as translate for our Spanish-speaking families, and take care of students with any medical needs, just to name few of my duties. In the free time, well there isn’t much of a free time around here …

What has your first year been like, so far?

My first few months at Douglas have been great. Teachers, staff and parents have been supportive and welcoming! It has been an easy transition and my coworkers have made me feel comfortable.

Where did you work before you came to Douglas?

I used to work at Douglas back in 2013 as a part-time clerical assistant for about a year. In 2014, I moved to Harris Creek Elementary School. Harris Creek is a multi-track, year-round school with nearly 1,200 students. At Harris Creek, I worked for a year as a media assistant and clerical assistant, then I worked for two years as a receptionist. As much as I loved working at Harris Creek and I live five minutes away from school, I was ready to move back to a traditional school and spend more time with my family and have more time to do my volunteer work. When the opportunity came along to move back to a traditional school and Douglas was an option, there was no doubt I wanted to move back to Douglas where I had started … It feels like I’m back at home!

What is one “fun fact” about you that people might not know?

One ‘fun fact’ about me would be that I love to travel and take new adventures. Oh! and did I mention I love coffee? I am a coffee addict!

Mr. Cerveny is Named Douglas Teacher of the Year!


Most every student at Douglas knows who Mr. Cerveny is — no matter what grade they’re in. That’s because this dynamic, one-of-a-kind teacher is beloved by so many. Get to know Mr. Cerveny in the interview below. And, the next time you cross paths with him at the school, be sure to wish him big congratulations!

How long have you been at Douglas? Have you taught CCK the whole time? (What does CCK mean?)

This will be my twelfth year at Douglas. I have not taught CCK the entire time at DES. This will be my sixth year teaching CCK.

Some people think that CCK stands for Craig Cerveny’s Kindergarten (got that from a former student) but that is only wishful thinking on my part. CCK stands for Cross Categorical Kindergarten.

CCK is a self-contained special education classroom. It’s known as the diagnostic year by other special educators. Every student in my classroom has an IEP (Individual Education Plan) and has been diagnosed with a disability. I have a wide range of students with disabilities that I serve. They are as follows: DD-Developmental Delay, AU-Autism/Asperger spectrum disorder, TBI-Traumatic Brain Injured, ED-Emotional/Behavior Disorder, and OHI-Other Health Impaired.

I have the privilege of serving kindergarteners with unique learning abilities and preparing them for mainstreaming into a regular classroom. My job is to teach the curriculum, cover each child’s IEP and to collect data on everything. I have to collect a lot of data and analyze it to help decide each child’s placement for the following school year. Basically, I am leading the determination of my students going to a regular education or another self-contained classroom based on data I collect, analyze and present to the IEP team. My goal is to have 100% of my class going into a regular education setting when exiting my class.

What made you decide to become a teacher?

I could probably write a book on this question but I will summarize it as best as possible.

I have a different perspective on learning and teaching and this is why I became a special education teacher. I teach to serve students that many educators have difficulty teaching, the students who have unique learning styles, who have a disability. Teaching these students is a passion of mine because I, myself have a disability. I decided to become a teacher to pay it forward.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Making a connection with each child is important. That connection creates and builds our relationship. I believe all relationships are built on mutual expectations and responsibilities. Through our relationship, we set expectations and become responsible for trying our best to meet each other’s expectations. I enjoy building relationships, but it is the results of the relationship that I enjoy most.

Like all teachers, I love the “goosebump” moment. It is the moment that you and your student realize you are working together to overcome challenges and resulting in success. Its effect on me is goosebumps. It comes in all different forms. It could be a student counting to 10 for the first time or being able to recognize their own name in writing. I basically work for goosebumps instead of money because the realization of all the struggles that you and your student have together gets erased in that moment. That is why I am so passionate about my students demonstrating grit or “Never give up” mentality. You can achieve success by learning from your mistakes and never giving up.

What is the most challenging thing about being a teacher?

I would say paperwork, but it is not. The most challenging thing about my job is letting my students go. Unfortunately, CCK is a regional program and not all my students are based at Douglas or get in on the Magnet program. Even if my students are going to be mainstreamed into a regular classroom that does not mean they will stay at Douglas. So I have to say goodbye to most of my students as they go off to other schools. At the same time, I have to believe that they will use and grow with the strategies I have taught them. I have to hope that my students’ next teachers will see the same potential that I did in them.

How does it feel to win this well-deserved recognition?

It feels AMAZING! I am honored to be recognized as Teacher of the Year at Douglas ES. There are so many great teachers at our school, it is still hard to believe that I was chosen. I am hoping I can meet or exceed our staff’s expectations as I pursue the Teacher of the Year award at the county level.

Get to Know School Counselor Kelli Williams


What sorts of things do you do as our school counselor?

I work with students individually, in small groups and within the classroom to help support emotional and academic development. I also consult with parents and teachers on behalf of their child.  If a student is struggling with certain skills related to emotional development, I will work with them to develop strategies to strengthen these skills. As a school counselor, I also provide classroom guidance lessons on various topics, such as conflict resolution, self-regulation and social-emotional learning. I want school to be a safe and happy place for our children. I think this happens through connections and relationships with others, both students and staff, so I work hard to develop positive relationships with the students and with each other. Besides the counseling part of my job, I help with the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports and the Positivity Project Initiatives.

What is a typical day like for you?

My job is different every day! I usually start off with greeting students at the front entrance. The beginning of the day can cause anxiety for some students so I try to make myself available for those who are feeling a little reluctant in the mornings. Throughout the day, I meet with students, sometimes planned and sometimes not. I might also be in classrooms providing a guidance lesson on different topics (communication, conflict resolution, etc.). As the year progresses, I meet with several small groups on various topics (self-esteem, anger management, friendship skills, social skills, etc.).  I try to make the most of the school schedule. I oftentimes will have lunch with a student or groups of students. Some students come to me because they are having a conflict with a peer and lunchtime is a great time to work things out. I also consult with teachers during recess time as well as other times.

What is your favorite part of the job?

The favorite part of my job is getting to know our students. Their innocence and honesty make me laugh each and every day. They help me gain perspective on what’s important. Parents – thank you for sharing your children with us!

How can students or parents contact you if they need to talk about something or need help?

Students can come to my office (located across from the media center) and let me know they’d like to meet with me, or they can let their teacher know or write me a note and leave it in the envelope on my door. Parents can either email me (, call me (919-881-4894 ext. 23196) or come and talk with me in person.

What advice do you have for Douglas parents?  

Get involved! Know what your children are doing in and out of school (both academically and socially). Listen to them and ask questions. If you notice changes that concern you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me or your child’s teacher. We’re all on the same team!