Jamie Nash-Mayberry has been teaching social studies at Shawnee High School in Shawnee Community Unit School District 84 for eight years. She was inspired to become a teacher because of the wonderful teachers she had as a student. She also credits her varied experiences as a college student for helping develop into the teacher she has become.
Jamie worked for the Union County Sheriff’s Office while she was a student at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She realized that many criminals came from a long line of family members who had also been in trouble with the law. That lesson taught Jamie that she would have to work really hard to show students that they truly had options in life. She was also a student worker for the vice chancellor for Student Affairs. Here she gained a better understanding of what students need in order to succeed at the university level. Jamie also volunteered to work with individuals with disabilities and that experience helped her develop greater compassion and patience.
The combination of these “life lessons” has helped Jamie hone her teaching skills. “Mrs. Nash-Mayberry is an extraordinary teacher, respected leader among her colleagues, and a kind and generous human being dedicated to student success,” is how District Superintendent Shelly Clover-Hill describes Jamie.
Jamie wears many hats and her impact on her students and the community is visible in numerous ways. She helped the school earn the Democracy School designation. Shawnee High School is one of three high schools in the southern portion of the state to receive this recognition. Jamie created a veterans memorial wall at the high school to honor veterans in surrounding communities.
She has raised student and community awareness regarding the vulnerability of levees in the area and created a place-based education lesson for her students. Her efforts have helped the project grow exponentially. The project, now in its seventh year, has helped students become aware of the importance of civic responsibility Some of Jamie’s students partnered with SIU-C students to make a seven-minute video, “Save the Levees, Save the Future.” Her students work with government officials and politicians to raise awareness of the need to maintain and improve the levees that protect the area from the Mississippi River. Under Jamie’s guidance, students have written letters, given presentations to state and federal lawmakers, spoken in hearings with the Army Corps of Engineers, and developed, as Jamie puts it, “a sense of their own agency.”
One of Jamie’s colleagues writes that “because she excels in her teaching, Jamie’s affording her students the opportunity to excel outside of school and in club activities that they may be involved with.”
Jamie makes it a point to teach across curriculums. She ties her lessons in with other subjects to provide students with a well-rounded education. Jamie also makes lessons fun and interesting. She creates projects that include student involvement. Rather than lecture students or have them memorize a lot of information, Jamie makes sure they are active participants in their education. A parent who is a former teacher shared these thoughts about the impact Jamie had on her son and daughter, “Mrs. Nash-Mayberry challenged them to do the best they could do, to believe in themselves, and pursue whatever dreams they may have.”
Jamie is one of our 10 finalists for Illinois Teacher of the Year, who we will name at the Those Who Excel banquet in Normal on Oct. 28.