Jamie Nash-Mayberry in the classroom

Jamie Nash-Mayberry helps her U.S. History class review for a test in May 2017 at Shawnee High School in Wolf Lake.

WOLF LAKE — Volunteering and helping others is a way of life for Jamie Nash-Mayberry, social studies teacher at Shawnee High School in Wolf Lake.

She now teaches her students to adopt the same lifestyle through some creative methods of teaching. The results have garnered attention around her own school district, as well as the state.

Nash-Mayberry was nominated for Illinois Teacher of the Year by Shelly Clover-Hill, superintendent of Shawnee District 84. When the Illinois State Board of Education released a list of finalists for teacher of the year Monday, Nash-Mayberry was on the list.

She believes the nomination was made because of the creative teaching methods she uses in her classrooms.

“I try to give my students activities that will help them in real world. I also try to teach them media literacy skills,” Nash-Mayberry said.

Nash-Mayberry has involved her students in planning and executing a mock election, creating a student government, building a memorial for veterans, expanding awareness for specific diseases, prevent child abuse campaigns and the levee project — efforts to assist during flooding and strengthen levees on the Mississippi and Big Muddy rivers.

“I try to make learning interesting and fun, and also challenging,” Nash-Mayberry said.

After the district combined schools, Nash-Mayberry and her students had the opportunity to help with a Veterans Day program in the elementary school. The idea to build a memorial wall with the names veterans living within the district grew out of the experience.

She asked her students to give back to the school by creating Student Government League with the idea students could help improve their school. Students who are elected to represent their class meet at least twice each month to discuss school issues and attend school board meetings to voice student opinions.

Then, there’s the levee project. Levees protect the homes, communities and schools of all students living within Shawnee School District.

“The levee project is an example of real-word learning where students have also learned that they can and have made a difference,” Nash-Mayberry said.

Students learn to advocate for stronger levees by identifying and researching issues with the levees and writing and presenting their findings to anyone who might help. As a result, students attracted the attention of state and local legislators and officials. The project will be in its eighth year in 2017-18.

“I’m very excited. I have a great group of students who will be able to continue raising awareness of levees. I have new, young students who I can introduce to the levee project who haven’t been involved before,” Nash-Mayberry said.

Interviews for finalists are scheduled for September in Springfield, and the winner will be announced Oct. 28. The winner also will represent Illinois in in the Council of Chief State School Officers’ National Teacher of the Year Program.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Herrin and Carterville, and is the food writer for The Southern.

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