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Wearing many hats, Thompson’s passion for education remains strong

During Black History Month, the EAGLE will profile local African-American community leaders. This week, the EAGLE sat down with Lafayette County School District board president Judith Thompson to talk about her passion for education and those who inspired her.

As a young girl, Judith Thompson was already on a path toward a career in education. Back then, her students were her dolls and her brothers, and her passion to teach grew as she did.

Raised in a small community comprised mostly of family in Louisville, Thompson attended Camille School until the 11th grade when schools integrated. She graduated from Louisville High School and went on to attend the University of Mississippi where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in early childhood education, a master’s in educational leadership and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.

“Throughout my school experiences I found it very rewarding to be chosen by teachers to work with other students,” Thompson said. “My final affirmation was during the summer months when I volunteered at Head Start. This was where I felt the love, patience and satisfaction of helping others to learn.”

Finding inspiration

While she knew she wanted to be a teacher, she found encouragement for her chosen path from her childhood teachers.

“My inspiration to become a teacher came from Ms. Day, my elementary teacher and Ms. Norton, my Sunday School teacher, who I admired and would always try to imitate,” Thompson said. “They often encouraged me and told me that teaching was my gift.”

After graduating from Ole Miss, she went to work for the Oxford School District as a first grade and second-grade teacher. She eventually became an assistant principal and then principal at Bramlett Elementary and Oxford Elementary. After she retired from the OSD, she became the director at ICS Early Head Start and IHL Barksdale Reading Institute and is presently supervising students teachers at Ole Miss.

While at Bramlett, she was the recipient of the prestigious Milken Educator Award that recognizes teachers and administrators for their outstanding ability to educate children. While serving as assistant principal, she was one of 10 principals chosen from Mississippi to attend Harvard University for a summer program.

Above and beyond

While most of her educational career was within the city school district, her passion to help students has extended beyond the city limits. She has served on the Lafayette County School Board for 15 years and completed her term as board president at the start of the year.

“After retiring from the public school system my desire and passion for educating children did not end,” Thompson said. “I felt the need to continue to be involved in ensuring that all children received a quality education. So, I decided to run for the school board for Lafayette County School District. I believed I could be an asset to the district as well as to the community.”

An African-American woman, Thompson said she seldom if ever faced any issues in pursuing her higher education and career goals; however, she admits at times she felt she wasn’t always “truly accepted.”

“However, I did not let that deter me from my purpose and goals,” Thompson said.

Thompson has also served the boards of North Mississippi Corporate, the Boys & Girls Club of Oxford, North Mississippi Baptist Community Advisory Board, Excel by 5 Coalition, LeapFrog, the CREATE Foundation and Oxford Medical Ministries.

Her goals as an educator have been to advocate the importance of education, from generation to generation, regardless of race, religion or background.

Thompson is married to James O. Thompson, a retired human resource manager. They have two sons – Phil, a corporate attorney, and Rico, a human resource manager, and two grandsons, Khylan and Benjamin.