Jerrilyn Jacobs

by the MY HERO Project

Jerrilyn Jacobs (Jerrilyn Jacobs ())
Jerrilyn Jacobs (Jerrilyn Jacobs ())

Jerrilyn Jacobs has been an active part of The MY HERO Project since it began in 1995.  Her expertise as a teacher combined with industry experience have made her an invaluable member of The MY HERO team. Her innovative teaching style has given Jerrilyn a unique ability to craft  compelling lesson plans for The MY HERO Teacher's Room.  In her recent years teaching filmmaking and new media to Taft high school students in Los Angeles, Jerrilyn has mentored a number of aspiring filmmakers.  At the 2012 MY HERO Film Festival, her students are well represented as Taft High takes home honors in the Music Video and High School Experimental categories.


Jerrilyn with the My Hero Panel ISTE 2012 (My Hero ())
Jerrilyn with the My Hero Panel ISTE 2012 (My Hero ())

Can you tell us about the film program you created at Taft?


"I started teaching as an English teacher, but I came with industry experience as an advertising agency producer and independent film maker.  My school had missed out on the major funding that created video studios in other schools --- we had no media at all.  An assistant principal told me I qualified for some funds set aside for new teachers, and helped me get enough to buy a few cameras and computers.  Over the years I wrote a lot more grants and grew the program to the point where I qualified to receive federal Perkins grant support, which is what sustains the program.


The program includes New Media as a foundation course for 9th grade students in our Humanitas Program (which pioneered using project based learning for interdisciplinary curriculum).  This class looks at the state of the Internet and media, with standards addressing media literacy, computer literacy, and supporting basic literacy.


Three levels of video production classes develop skills for students with a wide range of interest in the subject.  Learning how to conceive of a message, develop it, produce it, and finally show it to an audience supports basic literacy, develops those critical "21st century skills, and supports creative self expression.


There's a growing group of alumni who attend film schools, get jobs, and keep in touch." 

Taft singers (Music video Blood Brothers (Taft High))
Taft singers (Music video Blood Brothers (Taft High))

What's the story behind this music video?  (you mentioned something about how quickly it came together)


"At the end of September, Dan Gruber, who teaches band and orchestra at Taft, came to me with the Ingrid Michaelson video contest for VH-1 Save the Music. I told him I don't do video contests that require voting because our school doesn't vote enough.  He said we could win instruments, and a concert by Ingrid, so I told him I'd help him try.  Our music program suffers from cutbacks, and we REALLY could use the instruments.  The deadline was insane--we had two weeks from the time Dan asked me to get the piece posted on a Facebook page and entered with VH-1---by October 11thDan got Taft teacher who teaches the choir Tom Pease, to arrange the score. They both practiced their musical groups. They took one week to do this.


In the meantime, I came up with the concept that it would be a combination of musical performance and a flash mob dance in our lunch area.  When I talked with the dance teachers they were too busy with our fall dance program, so I recruited a student, Jahla Pope, who is in both my film class and on the dance team to choreograph, cast, and rehearse the dancers.  Jahla is intelligent, motivated, a hard worker, and she wants to go to USC to study film making.  I asked her around September 28th.  She created the choreography, found her dancers, and started teaching them the dance with rehearsals on both Saturday and Sunday then every day after school until our shoot.


On the day of our shoot, everyone involved had to get permission to have an "in school field trip," to get excused from their classes. Dan and Tom crowded together the band, orchestra, guitar ensemble, and choir in one room, leaving almost no space for the 5 student camera people I brought. We shot master shots a few times, varying angles, and smaller groupings a few times.


We broke for lunch, then set up the dancers as lunch ended, getting the long pan of everyone in the lunch area before the dance starts.

There was a problem with the song playback, and we had to keep the volume down so as not to interrupt the classes in session next to us.  Again, five camera were used to make sure that we'd have a variety of shots in the one hour we had to shoot in.


Over the weekend, Tom mixed the sound track to balance the orchestra and vocals.  He adjusted the tempo in parts. I received the soundtrack over the weekend, and the piece was due that Thursday.  Because of his soundtrack I now did not have enough footage of the choir in sync to the track.  We reshot the choir singing to the playback on Monday, which allowed us to include the whole group doing the wave, which they like to do. The edit was simply about finding the best shots for the different pieces of the song and trying to cheat the sync. We got the piece in on time, and the school started voting.


As I knew from the start, though, my school is not the kind where everyone joins together and keeps voting for something, and we'd gotten a late start, competing with east coast schools who'd posted their entry early. There certainly were a lot of students, staff, and family who DID vote, however, and we came in 11th in the results.  We were told that Ingrid Michaelson had seen our piece and that it was one of her favorites, but we were not part of the final competition.

Spark of Inspiration (Elina Mushinskaya ())
Spark of Inspiration (Elina Mushinskaya ())


What have your students gained by participating in this program?


"The collaboration caused a lot of student excitement and pride in the music, film and dance programs at Taft.  The arts are getting short shrift in public education, though everyone knows how important they are in supporting academics and the creative skills that are defined as "21st century skills."  Pulling together and creating something that we are proud of was rewarding.


The song also was important to the students. We have one of the most diverse student bodies in the second largest  school district in America.  In the past our conflict resolution programs and others set up to celebrate diversity have been praised and recognized.  (The Queen of Jordan visited a few years ago to ask our students how they learn to live together and to look at the programs she might take back to the youth in her country.)  Taft High School is proud of its tolderance and celebration of diversity, so this was a natural song for us to sing.


What have you gained?


"It was a huge amount of work, but I was rewarded by the student involvement and the appreciation for the final product."

Jeanne Meyers (My Hero ())
Jeanne Meyers (My Hero ())

Can you tell us about your student Elina Mushinskaya whose "SPARK OF INSPIRATION" won the HIGH SCHOOL EXPERIMENTAL category in this year's My Hero Film Festival?


"Elina is an artist, and she decided to do an animation for her final film in my film class.  The shooting was easy; the animation was hugely time consuming.  At one point she didn't think she was going to be able to finish it, as her other finals needed her time as well, so I extended her deadline, giving her a good grade on what she had finished so far but making her promise to finish it after the semester.  She kept her promise.

Currently she's taking art classes at an art school in Pasadena on the weekends.  I know she will be successful because she's willing to put in the work to realize her vision."


How has the MY HERO Project enriched the learning environment in your classroom?


I have used the My Hero Project in multiple ways over the years, from writing stories in the early years, to creating films for the film festival. It also is part of my curriculum for my new media students who read the dystopic novel, "Feed," by M. T. Anderson. After  exploring how the world might end generations from now from unsolved problems found today, students delve into the My Hero website to find stories about people and organizations who are making a difference in trying to solve these problems, reflecting on how they might join the fight for our future.


Who's your hero? 

My hero is now and always will be Jeanne Meyers because of her visionary creation and sustained development of the My Hero Project.

Page created on 8/18/2014 7:55:50 PM

Last edited 1/6/2017 9:05:18 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Taft High version of Ingrid Michaelsons Blood Brothers - Check out this inspiring MUSIC VIDEO, a FINALIST in the 8th Annual My Hero Film Festival. Featuring the Taft High School Chorus Ensemble, Orchestra, Band, Guitar Ensemble, shot by the TAFT filmmaking class and choreographed by student Jahla. We Live This Song! part of the VH1 Save The Music Contest.
Jerrilyn Jacobs at ISTE 2012 - Jerrilyn Jacobs describes her experience using MY HERO as an educator.
Spark of Inspiration - Jerrilyn Jacobs Film Student Elina Mushinskaya Wins First Place for Spark of Inspiration in High School Experimental category at the 8th annual My Hero Film Festival. Check it out!