Words of advice for all future educators: “Be like Ms. Clark and Ms. Keller.”
Ms. Clark was Deion Jamison’s fourth grade teacher. Seeing his academic giftedness, she gave him a small chalkboard for Christmas, which he promptly used to “play school” at home day after day.
Ms. Keller was Jamison’s 10th grade English teacher. Strict but not mean, she had high standards for her students. She would not allow anyone to fail through her rigorous instruction.
“When I became a teacher, I wanted to be a mix of both of them,” Jamison said. “I wanted to inspire students to follow their dreams, whether teaching or anything else. And I also wanted to hold these very high academic expectations for my students. Those are the things that played into my development as a teacher.”
Only five years into his teaching career, Jamison’s dual commitment to inspiration and expectation has led him to a significant milestone: selection as the 2023 South Carolina Teacher of the Year.
The Vance, South Carolina, native is an English teacher at Legacy Early College, a public charter school for K4-12 students in Greenville’s West End. After graduating from Clemson in 2017 with a sociology degree and education minor, he entered the Teach for America program, serving two years as an English teacher in Orangeburg, South Carolina before moving to the Greenville position. He also holds a Master of Science in education from Johns Hopkins University.
Inspired by Ms. Clark, Ms. Keller and others, Jamison entered Clemson focused on computer science but soon changed his major to sociology. Classes such as “The Community” with Kenneth Robinson and “Sociology of Education” with Andrew Mannheimer revealed the intersection of sociology and education – and showed him a clear career path.
The impact of the sociology program is seen in Jamison’s approach to teaching. He entered the classroom understanding that students – like everyone – possess a wealth of knowledge and experiences to be leveraged as strengths. He recognized that giving students information was not enough; instead, they needed a partner to learn with them.
Through both his academic studies and teaching experiences, Jamison has emerged with a teaching philosophy focused on the importance of sharing education and making an impact. He conveys to his students the importance of advocating for others, building soft skills that will lead to success, and addressing problems that are pressing to the world, now and in the future.
“I often believe that if we as adults listened more to kids, we could solve many issues,” he said. “They have good ideas.”
As South Carolina Teacher of the Year, Jamison will take a year-long sabbatical from teaching. During the year, he will participate in workshops, mentoring opportunities, speaking engagements and policy work. He will also lead the S.C. Teacher Forum Conference for the state’s district teachers of the year.
“It’s the greatest honor and also the greatest responsibility of my life, as I’ll be serving South Carolina’s 55,000 teachers and their students,” he said. “But I’m excited about the opportunity to continue to be authentic and share the things that matter to my students and me because it has gotten me to this point. I also look forward to amplifying our teachers’ voices.”
Another point of excitement for Jamison? Bringing recognition to his alma mater. “I’m excited to bring the Teacher of the Year honor home to Clemson!” he said.
The Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice is part of the University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS). Established in 2016, CBSHS is a 21st-century, land-grant college that combines work in seven schools and departments – Communication; Nursing; Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management; Political Science; Psychology; Public Health Sciences; Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice – to further its mission in “building people and communities” in South Carolina and beyond.
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