Like many dedicated educators, Jacquie Armstrong says the best part of her job is “giving people a second chance in life.” As Centralia College’s new Director of Corrections Education, Armstrong oversees educational opportunities for incarcerated adult males at the Garrett Heyns Education Center in Shelton and at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock. Armstrong, who has worked in corrections education for many years, believes that education is “sometimes their only real chance to succeed.”
By law, incarcerated adults without a High School Diploma or certificate are mandated to work towards a secondary completion goal. Part of Armstrong’s role as director includes overseeing the assessment of male offenders entering into incarceration and determining their educational needs. The corrections education program provides classes in basic education for adults including high school equivalency (GED) preparation and professional-technical programs. Students can earn short term certificates in specialties such as office data specialist, horticulture or construction trades. The program is a joint effort of the Department of Corrections and the community college system.
Armstrong is not new to the field of corrections education. In 1998, she started as an Adult Basic Education faculty member at a Washington Corrections Center for Women through Tacoma Community College. After nine years, Armstrong became an educational administrator at the correctional complex in Monroe through Edmonds Community College. Before taking on her new role with Centralia College, Armstrong worked for four years in Olympia as the Policy Associate for Corrections Education at the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
“In my career, I have had students in the past who now have Master’s degrees in social work. A former grand auto thief is now a head mechanic at a car dealership.” Although there are obvious challenges that come with her job, Armstrong is continually encouraged by the success stories she hears from former students. Some have become successful welders; others have opened up their own upholstery businesses—mostly as a direct result of the education they received through the program.
Armstrong and her husband have three college age children and enjoy hiking and camping when it’s not raining. She joined the Centralia College administration in December. John Martens, Vice President of Instruction, says, “We are fortunate to have recruited an individual of her caliber.”