Finishing her sixth year with Ector County ISD and her first as an assistant principal at Downing Elementary, Zealia Jenkins has already made her mark being named the Elementary Assistant Principal of the Year for the district.

“It is still surreal to me. We have so many people that work so hard at the school district. And to be recognized for that type of distinction, I am so humbled and I want to live up to that … name and continue to do my best every single day,” Jenkins said.

She added that the staff at Downing is awesome.

“I have a lot of programs that I’m responsible for as well, and balancing that is the challenge. But I just appreciate that he trusted me with so much to do,” Jenkins said of Marcos Lopez.

Lopez is leaving the principalship at Downing and starting a leadership consulting job at Region 18 Education Service Center. Lindsey Lumpkin is taking over as principal.

Before going into administration, Jenkins was an elementary counselor. A native of Snyder, she started off teaching at Big Spring High School. Jenkins then became a counselor, first at the high school level, then middle school and elementary.

Jenkins earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Texas A&M University and a master’s from DeVry University.

She had her administrative certification for three or four years, but was hesitant about pursuing it because she wanted to make sure she had the qualifications to be an assistant principal. But she realized she was doing a lot of the things that someone in that job would do.

“… That gave me confidence that I could perform this job and do it to my best ability. And also, it’s hard to have everything to do this job initially. You have to start somewhere …,” Jenkins said.

Edward K. Downing Elementary’s assistant principal Zealia Jenkins received an award for Ector County Independent School District Assistant Principal of the Year for the 2020-2021 school year. Jenkins has been with the district for 6 years and said this was her first year as an assistant principal. Jenkins is a third generation educator and finds guidance about teaching with help from her mother who teaches in Snyder. Jenkins prides herself in offering her best so that she a resource which optimizes efficiency. (Jacob Ford|Odessa American)

She added that she works hard to be good at what she does, but there was still a learning curve. The staff and administration was very supportive of her, mentoring and guiding her.

Jenkins comes from a family of teachers. Her grandmother taught for decades and her mother is still in the field.

“I pretty much grew up at a school,” she said.

She would help with bulletin boards, organizing her mother’s activities for the students and making her posters.

“… You name it, I’ve done it in the school but I did not want to be a teacher. And I knew what it took to be a teacher because both my grandma and my mom were very passionate teachers,” Jenkins said.

In Synder, she said, they’re pretty well known and Jenkins thought she didn’t “have the heart for it.”

“My heart was to make money so I was going into information systems,” Jenkins said.

She thought she would become a database administrator.

“That’s what I went to school for, to become a database administrator and what I found out is that every role that I played in my career, I was always training and I was always educating and I was always assisting people to understand or to help them out. I got a position in Snyder where I was an academic advisor at Western Texas College for the athletes and I loved it,” Jenkins said.

She had success with a student who lacked confidence to pass algebra, but she did with Jenkins’ help.

“From that, I was like I think I like this teaching thing, so I went through the alternative certification programs for teaching,” Jenkins said. Her certification was through Region 14 in Abilene.

“… It was the closest place for me to go. I would work at WTC, I would leave and I would go and attend school at night, right after work until like nine o’clock and then drive back and go to work. And then did my summers. I had two beautiful babies and I was taking care of them as well at that time,” she said.

Jenkins is the single mother of a teenage son and daughter.

Lopez said Jenkins was very deserving of the elementary assistant principal of the year award.

“Ms. Jenkins is a passionate educator. In her decisions, she always evaluates what is best for students. She never assumes to know everything, but rather becomes inquisitive on how best to handle every situation. She has grown tremendously this year as her first year as a campus administrator. She will continue to grow and shine and make any place a better learning place for her students. It has been an honor to work alongside Ms. Jenkins,” Lopez said in an email.