South Carolina 2023 Teacher of the Year

May 30, 2023
Deion Jamison Deion Jamison

Deion Jamison is the 2023 South Carolina Teacher of the Year and is a ninth and 10th grade ELA teacher at Legacy Early College in Greenville, SC.

He earned his undergraduate degree in Sociology from Clemson University and a Masters of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Jamison became interested in teaching as a child, but the career was solidified after recognizing the disparities in education in South Carolina between districts.

As a Bill & Melinda Gates Millennium Scholar and product of Orangeburg County Schools, he ascribes to the proverb “to whom much is given, much is required,” further influencing his decision to teach. Jamison believes that education is liberation and teaches his students skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving to address the world’s most pressing issues.

Jamison’s work has been recognized locally, regionally, and nationally from organizations such as Teach For America and the National Council of Teachers of English. Aside from accolades, Jamison is most proud of creating brave, inclusive spaces for culturally and linguistically diverse students to thrive.

Jamison is originally from Orangeburg County, which is part of what’s been called the “Corridor of Shame,” a phrase popularized by a documentary of the same name that shed light on the strip of counties in the Lowcountry notorious for inadequate education funding and poor levels of student achievement.

His interest in education was piqued when he was in fourth grade — his teacher bought him his first chalkboard — but waned in high school when he started researching other careers.

“Finding out how teachers were treated and the lack of pay within the field — I wanted to do something else,” he said.

He landed on computer science when he got to college, but he didn’t find it interesting.

“What really sparked that thing for me was a conversation I had with some dorm mates, and I found out there was a disparity between districts in South Carolina,” he said.

He had a score of 21 on his ACT, which was one of the highest in his high school, but some of his peers in college had earned scores of 36. He realized there was a huge disparity in the quality of the education he’d received compared with those from other schools.

He wanted to change that.

After dedicating himself once again to becoming a teacher, Jamison originally wanted to teach history but landed instead on English language arts. He was involved with the alternative certification program Teach for America, which places college graduates into high-need subjects. At the time, the subject he qualified for was ELA.

“It’s a subjective subject,” he said. “I can create an environment where students can think critically.”

Jamison believes some teachers look at their students and see only test scores, but he tries always to look at his students as humans. That means working to engage students through things they like; in other words, he likes to use things that students are into — like the social media site TikTok — to meet them where they are.

“Most if not all of my students look like me or some version of me,” Jamison said. “They’re Black and brown students. A lot of them come from impoverished backgrounds and what not, and that’s literally the same scenario that I had growing up.”

At Legacy Early College, Jamison likes bringing a diverse group of views, including literature that centers on joy-seeking characters who look like them and who are actually happy. He stresses critical thinking skills and research skills.

He uses the Declaration of Independence, for example, as a way to teach students to advocate for themselves. He’s seen a lot of stories of perseverance come out of his classrooms. Many of his students have been the first in their families to pursue college degrees, even while dealing with trials at home.

Jamison can relate. He had to care for his ailing grandmother when he was growing up, which is a situation a lot of his students find themselves in. They often have to be caretakers for family members when they’re trying to get an education themselves. With Jamison coming from a similar situation, he sees himself as able to empathize better with his students.