Jen Mangrum is a native North Carolinian. Both of Jen’s parents attended UNC-Wilmington and became public elementary school teachers. They raised their three children in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Jen was a strong student and loved helping her parents in their classrooms. However, Jen’s mom suffered a massive heart attack and passed away when Jen was just 14 years old. Her older siblings had already left the nest and with the loss of her mother, Jen’s world changed forever. Jen found herself relying on school as her safe place and her teachers became like family. This moment would define her passion and life’s work as an advocate for teachers.
In 1987, like her parents before her, Jen graduated from UNC-Wilmington with a degree in elementary education. She worked in a diverse school near the military base. During her first two years as second grade teacher, Jen also attended graduate school at East Carolina University and received a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education. In 1989, she moved to Guilford County and was surprised to find there was a teacher surplus. After interviewing for a Teacher Assistant position, Dr. Doris Henderson, recommended her to a fellow principal who was gaining a teaching position. Jen was hired and began her career at Colfax Elementary School, a rural community outside of Greensboro.
For the next twelve years Jen taught second and third grade in rural NW Guilford County. Recognized as a teacher leader she became a literacy facilitator at her school and modeled and coached effective literacy instruction with her peers. During this time she also began consulting with the National Paideia Center in Guilford County and eventually across the country.
In 2001, Jen knew her experiences as a teacher leader and coach were pointing her back to graduate school. Jen attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and received a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. In the winter of 2004, just after graduation, she was hired by North Carolina State University to create the first Elementary Education Program and Department. She successfully created the program within 18 months and the first cohort of students began. Jen would become the first faculty member in the department and lead the program in its first two years.