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Educator was inspired by his teachers from childhood

Robert Houk • Jun 5, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Jamie Freeman, who graduated from David Crockett High School in 1994, is completing his 18th year as a teacher.

The Army veteran earned his bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education at Western Kentucky University, where he met his future wife, Mollie. He earned his master’s degree in education from Tusculum University, and a doctorate in education from Lincoln Memorial University in 2011.

He teaches economics, Appalachian studies, world history and AP human geography at David Crockett High School.

Fast Facts

Dog or cat: “My family and I enjoy the company of both a dog and a cat.”

Hobbies: “I enjoy growing a vegetable garden. This year we planted potatoes for the first time. Due to the pandemic, I had more time on my hands at home leading to a larger garden than normal.”

Ideal Getaway: “In high school, I read a book about New Zealand. One day I hope to travel to New Zealand to take in its glorious natural beauty.”

WHAT LED YOU TO BECOME A TEACHER?

The teachers from my youth at South Side School in Johnson City, Lamar School in Washington County and my high school years at David Crockett are the reason that I became a teacher. During my childhood, my family was met with difficult challenges that left my siblings and me without the necessities of life such as food, water, electricity and shelter.

My teachers from elementary school through high school recognized the struggle that my siblings and I experienced by providing as much as they could for us. Due to challenging family circumstances, my 8th grade teacher brought me into his home and fostered me for a year. After a year with my teacher, a David Crockett community couple fostered me for an additional three years providing necessities and love enabling me to excel.

My teachers at David Crockett played a significant role in my desire to become a teacher. I will never forget Zenobia Sisk, my chemistry teacher, for purchasing my high school letterman’s jacket. This act of kindness made me feel part of the community, and I wanted to be like her.

Many teachers played a positive role in my life that led me to be an educator, and for this I am eternally grateful.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING AN EDUCATOR?

Every single day as students enter my classroom, I try my best to greet each and everyone of them. Most of the time I see big smiles when I ask how they are doing. Sometimes, however, after I greet students their faces reveal that they may be having a difficult day which opens the door to listen and help as needed.

Having a class full of young people sharing their future hopes and dreams is humbling. It is also one of the most exciting and invigorating experiences for me. I enjoy being in the classroom with my students sharing our experiences the most.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR STUDENTS WHO HAVE SEEN THEIR TRADITIONAL EDUCATION PUT ON HOLD BY COVID-19?

I encourage students to lean on their friends and families to help navigate our “new normal.” I will also say to students that I am extremely proud of how you adapted to online learning nearly overnight. The pandemic learning schedule required adaptation almost daily, and I encourage students to remember these experiences and skills because it is likely that some form of online learning will play an integral role in curriculum for the foreseeable future.

Lastly, I would ask students to remember our country has faced similar challenges throughout history with the 1918 pandemic, polio virus and the world wars. We rose to the occasion during these trying times, and I believe we will do so for the COVID-19 pandemic. Hang in there, be hopeful, and take care of one another.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES FACE IN TEACHING DURING THE PANDEMIC? 

Teachers are naturally nurturers. Immediately the pandemic forced teachers and students apart. When school is in session, teachers are consolers, tutors, listeners, advocates, coaches and mentors. Not having the ability to help students in the aforementioned areas of their lives was extremely difficult for my colleagues and me.

Teaching content is important, but we all know it is the connection and the relationship that is most meaningful for students’ learning experience. Throughout the pandemic, my teacher friends and I telephoned one another numerous times wading through online technical issues or just extending words of encouragement.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT AS A TEACHER?

The thing that sticks out as one of my proudest moments is when I received a four-page handwritten letter from a student detailing her experience in my classroom. The letter begins with this statement: “To start off I’d like to tell you that you have single-handedly changed my life.”

This moves me to tears every time that I read it. It is powerful, and it proves to me how deeply teachers influence the lives of students. The student went on to say, “I was excited everyday walking into your classroom. I always felt valued. My presence always felt welcomed and that the class was actually invested in all of us because you taught us not only to respect ourselves but each other, too.”

I will end with this statement from the letter: “I am so proud to say that I had a teacher that not only had such a caring heart for his students, but for the world in general.”