A Way with Words and Dogs
August 2022 Issue
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Mike Force Photography
Brunswick High School English teacher Jackie Archer’s first attempt at retirement didn’t work out, and she couldn’t be happier about it.
“I taught for 10 years in North Carolina, Savannah and South Effingham County. I retired, but it turned out I just needed a 10-year break,” she said, smiling. “I ended up working for a non-profit, and I realized I really was meant to be a teacher!”
But her road to becoming a teacher didn’t follow the traditional route. “I had always naturally gravitated toward teaching, but I wasn’t ready for college when I graduated high school, so I went to tech school, married and had two kids (her now grown sons Robert and Stephen).” Jackie eventually decided she really did want to teach and enrolled at Georgia Southern University, where she went on to earn a degree in theatre, before getting additional training and earning her teaching certification in English.
“I also went back to college to set that good example for my children. My sons remember when I graduated. I was in my late 30s when I started teaching, so I got a later start.” She added that this late start actually made her a stronger teacher—that and her love of the written word. “I’ve always loved words and stories. There is a quote I love—’The universe is not made up of atoms; it’s made of stories.’ (Quote by author Muriel Rukeyser) That’s how I feel. I love to create and always had something to read. I read all of the Nancy Drew books, then moved on to the Hardy Boys. I continued with Agatha Christie, lots of Sci Fi and even went through a romance novel phase when I was 14 to 16,” she added, laughing.
Jackie’s love of reading has never abated, and she continues to enjoy reading across all genres. “My current favorite is Jason Reynolds who writes for young adults. I read his “Long Way Down,” and I was blown away by his style of writing. You always hear writers say they grew up loving to read, but he said he hated reading as a child. He got into reading through listening to rap. “Long Way Down” has been described as ‘the urban Christmas Carol.’ It is very powerful, very moving.”
For the last two years, Jackie has taught freshman English and her ability to enjoy and teach works from across the spectrum also allows her to relate to her young students more closely. “Ninth graders are a fun crowd,” she said with a smile. “I’m there to show them how to get into critically thinking about words and narratives. That drives them to appreciate words.”
About six years ago, Jackie pursued additional studies to take on another teaching position—a dog trainer. “I got my classic mutt rescue, Rey (named after the Star Wars female lead character) six years ago. She was a nightmare. She tore up the carpet and a leather sofa and was destroying the apartment I lived in at the time, so learning how to train her became a necessity, but I also found I really enjoyed it. It took about three years for Rey to become a good girl” said Jackie, who continues to pet train privately part-time and on weekends. “Now Rey is a wonderful watchdog. The biggest surprise I learned is that when it comes to dog training you need a great amount of patience. People yell at their dogs. That doesn’t work. You need patience, follow-through and routine.”
Jackie said when it comes to teaching anything, being consistent is the key. “When training dogs, you have to be consistent. If you’re not, they will take advantage of you, just like kids!” Jackie laughed. She’s once again taken on a new puppy to train, a five-month-old female Malinois named Rohanne (a combination of her father’s name, Robert, and her mother’s name, Hannah.) “I took this on again at 57-years-old. I hope this puppy doesn’t break me!”
Personal Status: Single. “I did that marriage thing twice, and it didn’t work out, but I’m still a hopeless romantic.”
Hometown: “Technically it’s Augusta, but I was born in Germany and raised all over the place since my father was in the military.”
The Bard: Although she sites numerous contemporary writers among her favorites, such as Craig Johnson, the author of the Longmire series, she often finds herself returning to the classics. “Your girl loves her Shakespeare. I think I get on some of the kids’ nerves when I teach his sonnets. ‘Not again!’”
New Project: “I’m teaching Rohanne in jumping and agility. I’m already teaching her dock training, too. I think she can reach a competitive level of obedience. She is going to compete in events, and Rey gets to enjoy the ride.”
Binge-Worthy: “I love binge watching so many shows on Netflix. I’ve even started a list of my favorites to share with people.” The top of that list includes Lucifer and Ugly Delicious.
Favorite Pastimes: “I have a great relationship with my sons. They both live in Savannah, and one of my favorite things to do is to drive up and spend time hanging out with them. I also like living in this area and having such easy access to the beach. I love taking the dogs for walks there. I also enjoy eating out at local places. Tipsy McSway’s is a favorite and South of Heaven (a local BBQ spot) is on my must try list.”