Jane and Liz Tageson: A Mother-Daughter Teaching Team Makes the Grade

by Jan 24, 2016North Brunswick, People

When Jane Tageson welcomed her daughter, Liz, to the world in 1987, she had no idea that her sweet cheeked baby would not only share her genes but also her dreams. Never did she expect her daughter to evolve from tiny toddler to inspiring teacher. She had no way of knowing that the blonde haired teen would soon stand beside her in the classroom, sharing students and childhood memories.

Leland Christian Academy, the school within First Baptist Church of Leland on Village Road, plays host to this rare and extraordinary teaching team.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

Jane and Liz share much more in common than the traditional mother daughter duo. They are both Michiganders by birth, which gives them the same charismatic inflections and enunciations in their speech. When there’s talking, there’s always laughter; their chuckles, similar in sound, ping pong back and forth when you get them on a roll. They share the same blend of sarcasm, humility and heart. They both have a visible zeal for God, for education and for helping others. Both women knew from the beginning, without a doubt, that their career calling was in the school system.

When Jane graduated from high school in 1975, she already knew that she wanted to be a teacher.

“I wanted to teach elementary,” says Jane. “That was pretty clear to me.”

Jane left Michigan to attend Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University) in Indiana.

“My sister was there pursuing a degree in nursing,” explains Jane. “I wanted to be near her, so I followed her to Indiana. We were roommates my freshman and her senior year.”

When Jane graduated college in 1980, she headed south in pursuit of a warmer climate and a better job market.

“I had two college friends who were living in Charleston, South Carolina,” says Jane. “They said ‘get down here.’ There were no teaching jobs in the north, so I moved.”

Jane took on substitute teaching until she landed a job in the Charleston public school system teaching kindergarten. But when her church opened a school just a year later, Jane jumped on the opportunity to teach in a Christian environment.

“And that’s when I met my husband,” Jane says with a reminiscent smile. “Kim was a naval officer stationed out of Charleston. We met at our church, Church Creek Presbyterian in Charleston, but we quickly realized that we were both from Michigan. Our high schools actually played each other, we were so close.”

Jane spent the next two years dating Kim, who was “in and out of a submarine” as she puts it, while teaching at Charleston Christian School.

In 1982 the couple married and their careers changed. Kim left the navy and took a job with General Electric. Jane resigned from teaching to accompany Kim on his new professional journey, one that would take the couple all around the world in a short amount of time.

“We moved to Oklahoma for five months,” recalls Jane, “then to Switzerland for seven months, then to Pennsylvania and on to Alabama for eight months. Let’s see. Okay, then we moved to Louisiana for nine months and finally back to Michigan where Kim got a job with a Detroit power company, which allowed us to stay put for 22 years.”

Between 1982 and 1987 the Tagesons enjoyed a whirlwind adventure. Kim worked, Jane dabbled in substitute teaching, and the couple welcomed a son and a daughter into the world. Matthew was born in 1984 and Liz in 1987.

Once both children were enrolled in school, Jane went back to teaching. She spent six years at Pathway Christian Academy and another six years at St. Johns Catholic School, both in Monroe, Michigan.

“In 2008 Kim was surfing the Internet and stumbled across a job opening with his old company, General Electric,” says Jane. “So back to the South we went.”

Jane and Kim moved into their home in Magnolia Greens in 2008, and in the fall of 2009 Jane secured a job with Leland Christian Academy (LCA) teaching 5th and 6th grades.

Leland Christian Academy, which was expanding toward its goal to provide schooling for kindergarten through 8th grade, was seeking teachers for its middle school classrooms. When Jane caught wind that LCA was looking for a 7th grade teacher in the fall of 2010, she immediately thought of her daughter.

“Mom said, ‘You have to apply,’” says Liz as she smiles at her mother from behind the large teacher’s desk.

Following in her mother’s footsteps

Liz, who had just graduated with a teaching degree from the same college that her mother attended in Indiana, decided to move south for the same reasons that her mother claimed 30 years earlier.

“I knew that I had to get out of Michigan,” says Liz. “The economy was just so bad up north. So I moved to Leland to be with my parents and see where I would go. I interviewed for the job at LCA in May of last year [2010] and started as the school’s first 7th grade teacher in the fall.”

Throughout her childhood, Liz maintained an extreme interest in English classes, a love for reading and a unique appreciation for her teachers.

“Going into college, I knew that I wanted to be an English teacher,” recalls Liz. “I saw the impact that teachers had on me growing up. From that, God grew a passion in me to help students to grow in the same way my teachers helped me. So I went for teaching and never looked back.”

Liz was also clear on where she wanted to attend college: Indiana Wesleyan University. Just like her mom.

“I remember going for a college visit and when I stepped out of the car, I knew that’s where I needed to be,” Liz says with a confident nod. “It was really special to share a college with Mom. And to carry that on here at LCA is really fantastic. We never expected God to do this. It’s such a great opportunity to learn from a master teacher, my mom.”

Team-teaching in the LCA

Jane and Liz employ a team-teach approach in their classrooms — Liz teaching math for 5th, 6th and 7th grade and Jane teaching science.

“Everyone thinks it’s cute that we work together,” laughs Jane. “But at teacher meetings, they probably think to themselves ‘please shut up!’ We’re mother and daughter. We know each other so well and the same things tickle us. We really have a blast together here.”

Clay Fogler, the school’s administrator, agrees with Jane’s theory.

“They definitely share an energy unlike any other,” he says as he leans back in his chair with a grin. “Liz brings such passion to the school. I don’t know if it’s her youth or what, but the kids and the staff really enjoy her energy. And Jane? Jane is such an extraordinarily seamless teacher. She’s absolutely wonderful in the classroom. The two work very well together.”

Liz, who grew up a self-proclaimed jock, is excited about what the future holds for sports at LCA.

“I played intramural basketball and flag football, and pretty much everything else,” says Liz. “I always thought, ‘I’m a girl, girls aren’t supposed to do this,’ but, hey, you know what? They are.”

“She was the quarterback for heaven’s sake!” interrupts Jane.

“Yeah, I took sports seriously,” says Liz. “I like sports. Braveheart-style sports.”

Liz admits that although it’s ultimately up to the school’s parent involvement, she would love to see a basketball team or other sports teams develop at LCA.

In the meantime, Liz and Jane remain focused on the reason that they were led to LCA: leading children to higher education, and to God.

“It’s all about the kids here,” Liz says with sudden seriousness. “Getting to know their personalities. Falling in love with them. You have these special children that connect with your heart. Having close relationships with these kids, understanding their home lives and understanding their desires. That’s what it’s all about. I can encourage dreams. That’s so special to me. The potential for really becoming mentors for these kids is something I cherish.”

“There are two of my kids who want to be doctors already,” says Jane. “That kind of career holds me to a higher standard because I know that they need everything that I can give them; they’re going to need my all. The amount of impact that teachers have on a young life is incomprehensible. And that’s what makes me give this everything I’ve got.”

“God just really opened up a window for me at LCA,” says Liz. “The biggest draw for me was working with my mother. To see how she handles her classes. She’s such an amazing person. I am a better teacher because of what I see her do.”

“And I learn so much from Liz,” adds Jane. “I gain new perspectives and new energy to pour into my kids. It’s such a great experience for us both to do what we love. With people we love. For a God we love.”

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