By Mary Ellen Lowney
If there’s one thing that drove Celeste Budd-Jackson to a career in education, it was simply this: The opportunity to make a positive impact on children and changing lives for the better.
Budd-Jackson, who earned a master’s degree in education at AIC in 1980, retired last year after a 36-year career marked by high points, and more high points. Upon retirement, she was assistant superintendent of the Springfield public school system – the second largest in the state.
The teachers I had were very, very good, always ready to help,” she said. “Knowing that we were all working during the day, they tried to make things convenient. We did projects that affected our lives in school. You could do a project on the guidance department in your school.
Her focus never wavered, whether in her early years as a high school teacher or her time as a principal, or even her administrative work overseeing achievement at 17 city schools.
“My teachers had a lot of impact on me, and I knew I could do that too,” Budd-Jackson said.
Budd-Jackson remembers teachers who encouraged her to do her best, and challenged her to reach and grow no matter how tough the material. It sparked a dual transformation – her achievement soared, and her dreams for the future focused on doing the same for others.
“As a teacher, you can either change people’s lives or help them in some way, and I kind of liked that idea,” she said.
It’s a concept that has reaped personal rewards for her, over and over. Rarely does a day go by in Springfield when she fails to run into a former student, who breaks into a smile and digs up a story from her past years in the classroom, or as an administrator.
“My mother’s visiting nurse is a student I had at (the former) Technical High School. Another young man is a mayoral aide who remembers me. It happens all the time,” she said.
Budd-Jackson grew up in Springfield, the product of a city where she made her career and raised her family. She is the third youngest child of the four children of the late Joseph and Octavia Budd, who still lives in the family home in the Pine Point neighborhood of Springfield.
Budd-Jackson attended Roman Catholic schools, including the former Ursuline Academy for a time, and ended up at Classical High School – her own choice, as she wanted a diverse experience that only the public school system could offer at the time.
She graduated from Classical in 1968 and went on to Westfield State College, where she majored in history and minored in education. Straight after graduation she began teaching at Tech, where she would remain for nearly two decades.
It was during those years that she enrolled at AIC, to earn her master’s degree. She looks back on her years on campus as busy and stimulating.
“The teachers I had were very, very good, always ready to help,” she said. “Knowing that we were all working during the day, they tried to make things convenient. We did projects that affected our lives in school. You could do a project on the guidance department in your school.”
Budd-Jackson worked as assistant principal, and then principal, at Central High School before her promotion to assistant superintendent for the school system.
She also has a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts.
It was during her Tech years that she married Arthur Jackson, a fellow educator who retired several years ago as vice president for student affairs at Westfield State College. He is now vice chancellor for student affairs at University North Carolina at Charlotte. The couple raised two children, Kyle, who lives in Texas, and Tamara Dodds, who is a familiar face at AIC where she is the director of the Upward Bound program. Tamara’s husband is Keshawn Dodds, the Director of Diversity and Community Engagement in AIC’s Diversity and Community Engagement Office.
Tamara Dodds said she has always looked up to her mother.
“She’s very giving of herself, and of her time. She’s always making sure that everyone is taken care of,” Dodds said.
Indeed, Budd-Jackson makes such an impression that Dodds is often recognized as her mother’s daughter at community events, including parent events at the Alfred Zanetti Montessori School, where her daughter is in pre-school.
“Every time we go out, all my life, people come up to talk about my mom,” Dodds said with a smile. “Everyone knows her.”
AIC Professor of Education Augustus Pesce has known Budd-Jackson for many years, and understands the personal and professional qualities that have driven her success.
“She’s a terrific educator and a genuinely nice lady. She’s someone who has been an inspiration to students, as well as to faculty and staff,” Pesce said.
Since her retirement last year, Budd-Jackson divides her time between homes in Springfield and in North Carolina. She loves the life, and is grateful for the opportunities she has had.
She is also happy to visit the AIC campus where her daughter and son-in-law work.
“I have close ties to AIC – very close,” Budd-Jackson said.
“I think Vince (Maniaci) has really been a breath of fresh air. Everything has started popping, and in a very good way.”
© 2017 American International College