By Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Joe Cashion and
Army National Guard Spc. Brian Calhoun
South Carolina National Guard
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Becoming a nationally recognized educator is a lofty accomplishment and for one South Carolina Army National Guard member, that achievement became a reality as she was one of about 100 teachers from across the country honored in a White House ceremony Dec. 7 in Washington.
Lt. Col. Evet Jefferson, who in uniform works in the mobilization section of Joint Forces Headquarters here, serves her community as a special education high school teacher.
As the only representative selected from the state of South Carolina, among the newest class of 6,200 national board-certified teachers nationwide, she made the trip last week to be honored in the nation’s capital.
She first, however, had to be convinced she was really supposed to go.
“I actually thought it was a joke,” she said, referring to recent emails she received inviting her to the White House. “I just found out about becoming nationally board certified on Nov. 20, so I thought it was just an invitation to some meeting.
“But when I received the phone call inviting me, that I was one out of 100 across the nation going,” Jefferson said, “and the only teacher from South Carolina, it was a magnificent feeling. It was great to be recognized.”
Prior to working in education, Jefferson spent eight years working as a career coach at Vocational Rehabilitation before using the Troops to Teachers program to change her civilian career.
Troops to Teachers is a U.S. Department of Education and Department of Defense program that helps eligible military personnel begin a new career as teachers in public schools where their skills, knowledge and experience are most needed.
“I wanted to change careers and Troops to Teachers allowed me to do just that,” Jefferson said.
“It’s an awesome way to go.”
Since her career move, Jefferson has been a teacher for nearly 10 years, the last eight at her current school.
She said she loves the classroom and watching her kids learn something new.
“My kids are great,” she said. “The most challenging thing for me is for them to have as much faith in themselves as I have in them. I think they can do more than they think they can.”
Her school principal, Nathan White, expressed his pride in Jefferson earning the “gold standard” of teaching excellence.
“We are all very proud of her achievement,” White said. “She is really a great teacher and she works with our most challenging students [here]. They feel comfortable around her and she truly cares about them. She’s fair and she’s firm.”
At least once a week, Jefferson wears her uniform to school and White mentioned that her military experience helps her in the classroom.
“Being in the military has served her well in teaching because she’s extremely organized and the kids appreciate that organization,” White said. “She’s tidy, very neat and you always know where things are when you go to her classroom.”
As for the trip to Washington, Jefferson says it was a lot of fun as well as informational.
“The best part about it was when I got to sit with other [national board-certified] teachers with the same credentials as me, who really care about their students, and come up with some great ideas to use,” said Jefferson. “I enjoyed that thoroughly.”
Though she did not get to meet President Barack Obama, who was traveling at the time, she did get to meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
“He was really a down-to-earth gentleman,” she said. “He was really interested in what we had to say and he wanted to get a feel for where we are and what we wanted to see come down the pipeline, so to speak.”
Now having earned this highly esteemed honor in public education, Jefferson isn’t contemplating any other career moves.
“Teaching is pretty much in my blood,” Jefferson said. “Whether it’s in uniform or out, it’s what I like to do.
“When my students’ eyes open and they figure something out, and then they teach it to another student, that’s the most amazing feeling for me. That’s what keeps me in the game.”