COLUMBIA, S.C. — In May, Deion Jamison received the honor of being recognized as South Carolina's 2023 Teacher of the Year, making him the first Black man to earn the title that has recognized excellence in education since 1956.
Born and educated in what's historically been called the educational “Corridor of Shame," he's seen education as the key to overcoming adversity, he's seen educators as the vehicles to change lives, and he's looking forward to the next year of impact on students in South Carolina.
When Jamison reflects on the moment he was named South Carolina Teacher of the Year, he says he remembers everything that night up until State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman called his name. He describes the moment as a surreal. Five years into his career as an educator, Jamison has stepped into the history books as not only the first Black man to be awarded the honor, but also the first educator from Orangeburg County.
Jamison says this honor is a “testament to the hard work I have put in and to the investment I have put into my students and my community.” Jamison says that he was “raised in the Baptist church” joking that his Grandmother made sure he was there every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He’s amused by the thought that if he hadn’t been an educator he may have had a career in the ministry. His prayer has always been that the Lord would use him in his profession of education, allowing him to lead that way and have the most impact on lives.
His prayer for his students is that, “They would live in a world much better than the one he and his parents grew up in.” He describes it as a world that “honors and recognizes everyone’s humanity, regardless of what they look like or what they believe in.”
Jamison received his education in Orangeburg County. Even with what some would consider adverse conditions, Jamison and many of his classmates excelled in part because of the dedication and commitment of dedicated educators.
“I attribute a lot of my success to my foundation which is here at Lake Marion High School. We may not have had everything we needed to be successful in comparison to other districts, but we knew that our teachers loved us," Jamison says. He says joy and justice are two words he can use to describe his high school experience: Joy every time he came into the building because teachers were excited about their jobs despite the circumstances, and justice because the educators understood there wasn’t a “one size fits all” approach to education.
An interesting twist to his story--when he applied for the education program at Clemson University, he was denied. That led to him majoring in sociology. Jamison says that opened his eyes to the social injustices and disparities throughout South Carolina. He believes that acknowledgment has led to him being an educator.
Jamison says one of his goals at the end of his tenure as Teacher of the Year is to make sure he recruits more African American men into the education field.