Published on August 18, 2020 by Leighton Doores  

Samford University Orlean Beeson School of Education alumnus Andrew “Andy” Jackson has been named Alabama Teacher of the Year.

Jackson is a 2009 graduate of Samford’s Early Childhood, Special Education, Elementary, Elementary Collaborative (ESEC) program. Through the program, Jackson is certified to teach early childhood and elementary education students as well as early childhood and elementary special education students.

Jackson received the honor for his outstanding work as a fourth-grade teacher at Eden Elementary in Pell City, Alabama, where he has taught for the last eight years.

In his classroom, Jackson aims to create a safe environment where students can expect to learn and make mistakes. His students are encouraged to explore their individualism through movement, collaboration and games. He strives for every student to feel like an individual in his classroom. His goal is for each student to own their differences and grow into who they want to be.

“I don’t teach a class of 24 people, I teach 24 people who happen to be in a class,” said Jackson.

Among Jackson’s professors at Samford, he is remembered as a gifted student who naturally possessed the characteristics necessary to be a great teacher. Not only was Jackson consistently creative, intelligent and responsible, but a genuinely kind and authentic person as well.

“I knew from day one that this young man was destined for great things with children,” said David Finn, teacher education professor. “My heart leapt up when I learned that he was chosen as Alabama Teacher of the Year. We are deeply honored at Samford to showcase him as one of our finest graduates.”

When asked what it means to him to be named Alabama Teacher of the Year, Jackson responded, “I think this award means that I really surrounded myself with some great people and I’ve learned from good people.” He hopes that by being named Alabama Teacher of the Year he can highlight special education, mental health and foster care, his three greatest passions.

Jackson had not considered special education until he was in Samford’s ESEC program where it was offered automatically if you were majoring in elementary education. Jackson’s greatest hope as a teacher is for each student to know they are valuable and they have a purpose.

“I wanted to teach ALL kids, whether they’re gifted and talented, whether they’re nonverbal, whether they’re quiet and shy, whether they have learning challenges, whatever it may be,” said Jackson. “Samford prepared you to teach children. Period. That was one of the things that made Samford so unique. They instilled the belief in me that it didn’t matter what a kid’s situation was, where they came from or what their needs were, I was taught to teach them.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.