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NJES' Ledford Building Career Inside JCSS By Putting Students First

NJES' Ledford Building Career Inside JCSS By Putting Students First


It was 2010 and Aja Ledford had begun her student teaching at West Jackson Primary School. That was when she discovered a passion for teaching and for Jackson County. She graduated from Gainesville State College with a Bachelor of Art in Early Childhood Education in May of 2011 and would return to WJPS as a full-time teacher.

“I interviewed on my birthday in July and I was hired right afterwards. I had two weeks to prepare my classroom but I was excited,” said Ledford, who later received a Masters of Art in Early Childhood Education and an Education Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Piedmont College in 2020.

West Jackson Primary was home to Ledford for the first four years of her teaching career. Her last year at WJPS, she deservingly won Teacher of the Year for the school in the 2014-15 school year. It was the last year before merging West Jackson Intermediate School and the primary school together to form what is now known as West Jackson Elementary School. 

There was a pull on Ledford’s heart telling her to serve at Maysville Elementary and to make her impact there. Her philosophy, ‘Love First, Teach Second’, was really inspired from her years at Maysville. 

“It is such a different school. I just felt like I was being led to serve there, I wanted these students to know they were loved and cared for,” said Ledford.

“I think I became a better person, a better teacher from those students. The impact you have at any school is great but I really felt like I was able to make a larger impact on the students at Maysville.” 

Maysville is also the place where it became ingrained in Ledford to love her students, and where she noticed how much of an impact loving first and teaching second had on students. Ledford spent seven years at Maysville. Her first year at the school she taught reading and writing to kindergarten, first and second grade. She then taught two years of second grade and then third grade. To her surprise, Ledford won District Teacher of the Year during her time at Maysville for the 2019-20 school year.

“It was very humbling because there are so many hard working individuals in our district. I remember when they came to observe me teaching that year, the next day I got an email from one of the observers telling me that she knew how much I loved my students from the moment she walked in,” said Ledford.

“For someone to say that just from coming into my classroom meant a lot. I’ve always wanted every child to feel loved.”

Ledford knew that she eventually wanted to become an instructional leader for the school system. She had been preparing during her career by working with Growing Readers throughout Northeast Georgia RESA. 

“I had been building my capacity to one day be an instructional leader. When the position came open at North Jackson, it was a bittersweet moment. Maysville had become my home for the past seven years, but I knew I was ready to step into that role,” said Ledford.

Her transition from MES to North Jackson Elementary occurred in the 2022-23 school year. She has enjoyed every moment at North Jackson since her arrival.

"Aja is all about creating a school culture focused on doing what is best for kids where kids can focus on learning in a warm and welcoming learning environment with high standards for everyone," said NJES Principal, Troy Johnson. "We appreciate her and the work she does to prioritize the needs of our students and staff."

“I had the opportunity to come to North and it has been great. There is a family, close-knit culture here. Something else that I love about North is how diverse it is here,” said Ledford. “I remember one day last year, one of our teachers had a day where all the students were eating food from their cultures.”

Ledford also has created a Kindness Team after applying and winning the PBIS Kindness Grant this year. The team consists of North Jackson students and they use the grant funds to spread kindness throughout the school. Ledford gives the students liberty to discuss their own project ideas with her assistance and then they do the project once a month. 

The month of January they are ‘Spreading Kindness like Confetti’, a theme picked out by the kindness team. 

“We are creating a warm and friendly environment here in Jackson County. The grant has been great getting students involved and wanting to do random acts of kindness for others. I think that is something they will carry with them even outside of school,” said Ledford.

North Jackson elected Ledford as their Support Person of the Year for the 2023-24 school year. Her initiative to build close relationships with teachers and students shows her capacity to support everyone in any way possible.

"Aja Ledford is an outstanding educator and instructional coach that goes above and beyond on a daily basis to provide our students and staff the very best. Aja is a teacher first and foremost which makes her an amazing instructional coach because it gives her the lens of focusing on the needs of the teacher to support the needs of their students," said Johnson.

Within her role as an instructional leader, she feels as if she is able to make a bigger impact from her skills. She wants each teacher and each student to succeed. 

“My job is to support, assist and help build capacity, to teach teachers. Going in and showing the teachers the best ways and then in turn the teachers take those practices and apply them to their classroom settings, that is how I am able to make my impact on the students,” said Ledford.

With Ledford’s experience on both the west and east side she has been able to accumulate different experiences that contribute to her leadership skills. She feels as if being able to experience both sides of the district has been a game changer for her career.

“I’ve had a great opportunity being on the East side and the West side. Jackson County has a lot to offer and it’s going to continue with Heroes (Elementary School) opening and with the growth we are continuing to have,” said Ledford. “(Superintendent) Dr. (Philip) Brown is taking our school system up a notch and I think we are just going to continue to take it up a notch with expectations for teachers and expectations with instruction. It’s a great place to be.”

Her two children attended the Jackson County School System. Her daughter, now twenty-three and her son, now twenty-five, both graduated from Jackson County High School. Her step-son also attended Maysville Elementary.

It is safe to say that Jackson County is home for Ledford and her family.