At the S.C. Public Charter School District, we know our teachers and leaders work tirelessly to ensure our students are reaching their personal goals and academic aspirations. We know the work isn’t always easy, but we appreciate the commitment and the consistent drive to better the educational outcome for students. We love to spotlight leaders, educators, support staff and volunteers who exemplify excellence in their schools, classrooms and communities. Deion Jamison of Legacy Early College does just that. As the 2020-2021 District Teacher of the Year, we spoke with him recently about his journey with Legacy Early College and we’re excited to share what we’ve learned about his vision to put #KidsFirst.
IN YOUR OWN WORDS, WHY AND FOR WHOM WAS LEGACY EARLY COLLEGE CREATED?
Legacy Early College was created with the vision and goal in mind to serve underserved scholars, particularly from historically marginalized backgrounds but of course it’s a school that is open to any and everyone who wants to attend. Our mission is ultimately to get kids to and through college in an area where these scholars were historically not pursuing postsecondary options before the school’s inception.
YOU CHOSE TO PURSUE THE CHARTER ROUTE – WHY?
I first became interested in the public charter school movement while taking a sociology course during my undergraduate career. It fascinated me to learn more about school choice and how parents want additional options in the education of their child. I chose the charter route because of its innovation, and I like to think that I am an innovative educator, so having my personal interests aligned with the mission of a public school is why I ultimately chose the charter route.
WHY IS LEGACY EARLY COLLEGE SUCH AN IMPORTANT CHOICE FOR YOUR COMMUNITY?
In short, to give opportunities to scholars that would have otherwise not been afforded to them, especially scholars of color.
WHAT INITIATIVES ARE YOU TAKING IN YOUR CLASSROOM TO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR LEARNING ENVIRONMENT IS ACCESSIBLE AND EQUITABLE FOR ALL KIDS THAT COME THROUGH YOUR CLASS?
I am super big on Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT), which is all about learning more about your students, learning about their families and about the cultural assets they bring to the classroom. CRT can be described as the dispositions and beliefs educators have about their students. It is the act of intentionally recognizing biases that may harm students and removing them. CRT is learning and unlearning; learning the backgrounds and culture of students and their families and unlearning the misconceptions that hinder the educational process. So often, educators look at data they receive on their students and all they see are deficits (such as language barriers), but I like to learn who my kids are culturally and ensure that is reflected in the curriculum.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT AT LEGACY?
I don’t think my greatest accomplishment is something that’s tangible, but rather it’s the intangible of teaching my kids how to be advocates for themselves. One of the units I teach is on social justice and it’s amazing to compare what kids know about advocacy at the beginning of the unit with what they have learned by the end of the unit. Seeing my kids advocate for what they need, what their peers need and what the community needs has been amazing to watch during my time at Legacy.
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE HAS BEEN?
One of the greatest challenges I’ve experienced is having to adapt to the demands that Legacy and public charter schools in South Carolina require. You are expected to go above and beyond for your students, and sometimes, that means “after hours.” I mean, I have kids that are calling me at 6 p.m. asking me questions! However, it all pays off in the end when a student “gets it.” Teaching is very hard, but it is very important and rewarding.
WHY DO YOU THINK SCHOOL CHOICE IS IMPORTANT FOR THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA?
As I’ve mentioned before with the creation of Legacy, it just provides parents with the option to choose, whether it be a charter school, a magnet school or homeschool curriculum. Parents have the option to select the choice that best meets the needs of their child.
IF YOU HAD WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR YOUR STUDENTS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Don’t be afraid to take risks. I hear so often from my scholars that they don’t want to participate, or they don’t want to answer question because they are afraid to be wrong and I just want to encourage them to take those risks. The classroom is all about learning and I tell my scholars all the time that if they knew everything, there would be no purpose in me being there. Don’t be afraid to fail and risk a little in the process.
YOU WERE RECENTLY NAMED THE 2020-2021 DISTRICT TEACHER OF THE YEAR. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO REPRESENT THE DISTRICT, LEGACY AND THE REPUTATION OF PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOLS OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT YEAR IN ALL YOU DO?
First and foremost, I strive to continue to be an excellent teacher in my classroom. I also would like to take this a step further and begin trying to connect systems change by advocating for teachers in my school and across the district. I want to make sure there is space for us to connect and collaborate and share our bright ideas with one another.