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Jen's Story

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.

In 2008, Jen took a position at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Moving back to UNC-Greensboro allowed Jen to be closer to home while her two daughters completed their K-12 experience in Guilford County Public Schools. They would both go on to North Carolina State University. At UNC-Greensboro, Jen co-founded the UNCG STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative, (TLC). She and her colleague collaborate with practicing teachers to gain a better understanding of effective instruction in science, engineering, and literacy. The TLC is an organization that supports, promotes and encourages teacher leadership in STEM in elementary classrooms.

Jen’s community efforts are focused on advocacy for teachers and students. In the past, Jen has volunteered for ARC, an organization that advocates on behalf of those with developmental and intellectual disabilities, as well as Hooked on Books an organization funded by the Teague Foundation that provides home libraries for elementary students in high poverty schools. Jen serves on the Board of Directors for the National Paideia Center and travels throughout the country working with rock star teachers who want to learn new ways to approach teaching and learning.

In 2018, Jen campaigned for NC Senate. Her motivation was making public education a priority in the General Assembly.  She knew that a strong public education system would strengthen the local economy, develop a strong workforce and prepare the next generation of students to be well-informed, knowledgeable citizens. During this campaign, Jen met extraordinary educators, parents, and students. She soon became their partner and part of the collective voice for Save Our Schools and the Red for Ed movement. One of the highlights of Jen’s journey so far was marching in Raleigh alongside other educators in May of 2018 and 2019. Together with 20,000 of her closest friends, Jen sent a message to Mark Johnson and the NC GOP: public schools deserve better!

Jen continues to work with our Governor and the Democratic members of the General Assembly to advance education and help North Carolina to be known as “The State for Education.”

Jen's Experience

  • Professor at UNCG (2008-2017)
  • Co-Chair: Elementary Education Committee at UNCG
  • Program Coordinator- Master of Arts in Teaching for Elementary Education UNCG
  • Advisory Council for Dean Omar Ali, Honors College, UNCG
  • 16 years in Teacher Preparation and Professional Development
  • Board of Directors: National Paideia Center
  • Co-Founder: UNCG Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) Teacher Leader Collaborative
  • Nationally Recognized Educational Consultant
  • Assistant Professor North Carolina State University (2006-2008)
  • Coordinator of the Elementary Education Initiative at North Carolina State University (2004-2006)
  • District Coordinator for Paideia and Cooperative Learning – Guilford County Schools (2004-2005)
  • Literacy Facilitator in Guilford County Schools (1999-2001)
  • 12 years as Public School Teacher (1987-1989 in Onslow County, 1989-1999 in NW Guilford County)
  • Member: National Council of the Association of Educators
  • Member: League of Women Voters
  • Member: Democratic Women of Guilford County
  • Member: St. Francis Episcopal Church, Former Chair of Rector Search Committee, Former Vestry Member, Former Sunday School Teacher