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Secondary Teacher of the Year: Jamie Covey

The influence of Jamie Covey’s father, of setting high expectations and building relationships, can be found sprinkled throughout her life. Yet, the doctoral student who works two very demanding jobs, one as the American Sign Language (ASL) teacher at Denton High and the other as a reserve officer in the United State Navy, was caught off guard when she was named the district’s Secondary teacher of the Year.

“I don’t have a lot of time to mess around, so I think that translates to my relationships with students,” said Ms. Covey. “My father never disciplined us in public, yet he set very high expectations and then addressed us in a very firm and direct manner privately, so I do all of my one-on-one talks with students outside of class.”

She describes her teaching style as strict but tailored for the individual for all her 170 ASL students. As a Denton High graduate and one who has literally sat in their seat, her experiences give her a relatability second to none.

“Asking kids to do things in a learning environment requires them to fail, but if they feel safety in failure then the return on success if so much greater – it’s immeasurable,” she said. “If I can teach them to want to learn, then subsequently fail and then want to grow from that failure that’s a skill they will have for the rest of their life.”

Students in her class rarely find her correcting students inside the classroom, she works to intentionally fill the space with praise, respect and productivity.
When Ms. Covey returned from a deployment to Iraq in 2008, she had a split schedule teaching history and ASL. She believes that opportunity forced her to refine her teaching skills regardless of subject matter.

“When I come in on a Monday and my kids tell me they’re tired, I remind them, ‘Me too, I just did 20-hours of duty and Ph.D. level statistics homework, so let’s just pull it together and focus,’” she said. “Dig in, and let’s get to it.”

The signing skills she learned while attending Denton High opened many doors for her, helped pay her way through college and beyond. But, service to others and opportunities to work beyond stereo-types drives her to encourage students to look and think farther then they traditionally do.

“The element of surprise, especially for the young women in my class, that I can be a teacher and a warrior, not just have a ‘girl’ job sets them back a bit most time,” said Covey. “I unmeaningly destroy the labels they have, and that many have, but being in this classroom with these kids is my jam.”

To view Ms. Covey's video spotlight, please click here