‘Empowered Achiever:’ Jessica Simpson fulfills life goals

Susan EspirituFountain City

“I’ve always wanted to work with children.” Jessica Simpson found profound potential within these seven words that has led to an incredible journey.

When she was 9-years-old, Jessica’s grandparents bought a giant teacher desk and set it up in their basement. She used random school books to create lesson plans, giving her cousins spelling tests and grading all the work in red pen. Using Microsoft Publisher to make newsletters for her imaginary class, her dream of working with children began.

Jessica had a difficult childhood with both parents struggling with addiction and mental illness. At 16, she found a way out by getting married and moving to Hawaii with her husband, who was stationed in the Army. She says it may seem reckless looking back, but making that decision allowed her to break away from the unsafe environment at home and pursue a better life for herself.

At 18, Jessica took her first job as an in-home nanny for a 6-week-old baby boy whose parents were both in the Army. She was with baby Alex from 6 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

Jessica says since she was so young she had much to learn, but the two grew together and baby Alex’s family made such a profound impact on her life that she knew working in early childhood education was what she wanted to do forever.

Jessica worked with this family for almost three years before her own son, Noah, was born and then she became a stay-at-home mom for eight months.

When she was ready to go back to work, Jessica knew she wanted to work in a licensed child care facility so she could bring Noah to work with her.

Jessica moved back to Tennessee at age 20 and shortly after, got divorced. This facilitated her to get her child development associates credential which would increase her income to support her son on her own.

She earned the credential by age 21, and was an assistant director with the Davis Center for Child Development (Davis Center for short) soon after that.

During these years, Jessica met Parker, now her fiancé, who she says has been a huge support for both her and Noah. She says, “He and his daughter, Rayne, have truly completed my family, and I don’t know where I would be without them.”

At 25, Jessica moved into the director position at the Davis Center and earned her state early childhood program administrator credential.

She will graduate in May with her associate degree in psychology from Roane State with a 4.0 GPA and has been accepted to the University of Memphis to begin working toward her bachelor’s degree in child development and family studies.

Apart from education milestones, some of her favorite career achievements are overseeing major renovations at the center, from new playgrounds to new flooring throughout. She updated the center’s logo and marketing, and created a website at Davis Center.

One incredible accomplishment not heralded by all daycare centers is the survival of Covid-19, which she spearheaded throughout the entire pandemic. The center survived without laying off a single staff member or having to close for longer than two days due to illness.

Jessica reflects on many things learned over her years in the industry so far. She says the most important thing she’s learned working in childcare is the importance of responsive caregiving and providing high quality care to children from birth to 5 years. The skills they are teaching these kids now will impact them for the rest of their lives, it’s so much more than just reading and writing, but social and emotional skills, problem solving, empathy, etc.

She also is an advocate for early childhood as a career saying, “Working in early childhood education is such a rewarding career. It is hard, and it takes dedication and ongoing learning and training, but it is so important. People talk about how our kids are the future, and typically think about school-age teachers, but there is so much work to be done before children turn 5 and step foot in a kindergarten classroom.”

There have been so many favorite memories and stories, from seeing a child’s first steps to hearing a parent express how thankful they are to feel so comfortable leaving their child in their care but she recounts two here:

“I cried with one of our infant moms one evening when she showed up just before closing to pick up her son. She was going through a divorce and so overwhelmed with school and work. She was in a full-time college program, working full time and her son was 7 months old. She was overwhelmed with emotion to see him at the end of the day and I saw it in her eyes.

“I have been in her position, and I felt so connected with her in that moment. I told her that she was doing a good job, and her son was thriving. He was so happy and loved, and it would all be worth it. When she graduated a few months later and moved away to pursue her internship, she brought me handpicked flowers that I left on my desk for two weeks. I think about her and her son often.

Rayne Roberts, Noah Simpson, Jessica Simpson, Parker Roberts

“Less emotional, but just as impactful are the kids that smile and jump out of their parents’ arms in the morning to greet me or my teachers. They are so excited to be there, and I can see the relief on their parents’ face. They can tell how much their children are loved at our center and by me and our teachers.”

Jessica stills struggle to balance work and home life, once leaving a vase of fresh flowers on her desk because she knew she would see them more there than at home because she wants to remain available for teachers and parents if they need something. She does however, prioritize her weekend time with her family and special events for her children so they know she will always show up for them.

Thankfully for the Davis Center families and staff, Jessica Simpson plans to continue leading and loving the center long term while working more with advocacy and training for trauma-informed care for early childhood centers in our community and potentially pursuing graduate studies when she completes her current course of a bachelor’s degree.

Having known her for several years and seen some of this incredible journey unfold, I call her an excellent example of an “Empowered Achiever!”

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to susan@knoxtntoday.com


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