WOLF LAKE — Jamie Nash-Mayberry, social sciences teacher at Shawnee High School, is passionate about her job and the students who come with it. It is that passion that led to Nash-Mayberry being named the Smart/Maher Veterans of Foreign Wars Illinois Citizenship Education Teacher.
She was sponsored by Auxiliary of VFW Carroll P. Foster Post 3455 of Anna. The letter nominating Nash-Mayberry talked about her contributions to school, including creating a student government league, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily, helping with an annual Veterans Day program, leading student efforts to create a memorial for veterans, awareness campaigns for specific diseases and child abuse, mock elections and coordinating efforts to assist during flooding and strengthen levees.
All current classroom teachers are eligible for the award if they spend at least half the school day in the classroom. Previous national winners and home school teachers are not eligible.
John Metzger, VFW District 15 commander, said Nash-Mayberry secured the district prize and then won the Department of Illinois, a statewide award, for high school teachers. Then, she was entered into national competition, where she did not win.
She is the first state teacher winner for the 15th district.
“I just was notified today that she did not win the national award. I thought she might. She does so much work with the students down there,” Metzger said. “She is dedicated to the idea of helping the kids learn about what citizenship and community is all about.”
Nash-Mayberry will soon finish her eighth year of teaching. The graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale teaches about 75 students per day, some more than one day at the time.
“I had wonderful teachers at Cobden. When I gave my Valedictorian address, I said I wanted to be back there teaching one day,” Nash-Mayberry said.
While her career has not taken her back to Cobden, she is quite happy with her position at Shawnee. She believes that the support of her colleagues and administrators have helped make her a better teacher by giving her the freedom to try new things in her classrooms.
“I credit Shawnee for allowing me to explore new ideas, like our levee project or building a wall with veteran names,” she said.
For Nash-Mayberry, volunteering and helping others is a family tradition. Her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have always been about volunteering and giving back.
So she asked her students to do the same thing through student government league, which was created with the idea students could help improve their school.
“Along with that, we reinstated saying the pledge every day, and we say it in honor of a veteran,” Nash-Mayberry said.
When the district combined schools, Nash-Mayberry and her students had the opportunity to help with a Veterans Day ceremony hosted by the elementary school. The idea for a wall to honor veterans grew from that.
The wall will include the names of veterans living within the school district. Beta Club members walked the cemeteries and created a list of veterans. Nash-Mayberry hopes to have something up by the end of 2017.
For the students in the district, as well as the school itself, levees on the Big Muddy and Mississippi rivers are important. Nash-Mayberry leads her students in advocating for improved levees to protect their homes and school. After teaching them about the levees and issues surrounding them, the students become activists by writing letters, meeting with to legislators and officials, testifying before Illinois House and Senate, host informational meetings and fill sandbags as needed.
The project has become so popular with students, she often has younger students asking to join their efforts.
“Students love participating in things like the levee project," Nash-Mayberry said. "It’s almost like they are waiting for that torch to be passed down."
Nash-Mayberry said it is nice to receive that recognition, especially from a group she respects so much, because it shows others appreciate the work and time she puts in, but she already knows the students appreciate it.
She quickly shifts back to thinking of her students, especially this year’s seniors. She has been involved with them since they were fifth graders and will miss them “very much.” The class has given five different levee presentation.
“I am going to be very sad to see them go, and I hope future classes will take as much pride in civics projects as this one has,” Nash-Mayberry said.