Gary Burton, Jr.
Published: January 12, 2023 / 10:14 PM CST
Jan 13, 2023 / 07:14 a.m. CST
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – It’s one thing to watch the game, but it’s quite another to be on the field.
During the national anthem of the 2023 College Football National Championship game between Georgia and TCU, all of the nation’s teacher of the year winners were honored.
Jessica Saum is a special education teacher at Cabot’s Stagecoach Elementary. She is Arkansas’s Teacher of the Year for 2022.
“I’m not a particularly emotional person, but it was difficult to hold back the tears in that moment,” Saum said.
She had the opportunity to meet and greet The Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff, and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
Speaking with men who make decisions in our country was a surreal experience for Saum.
She says she’s learned that her voice matters as Teacher of the Year and that “teachers’ voices belong everywhere these decisions are made.”
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has stated that she will be the “education governor of Arkansas.”
Saum claims she met with the Governor while running for office.
“I believe it is critical that when we are asked to share our voices and experiences, we do so.”
Saum adds that the Governor deserves to hear from teachers and that knowing the Governor wants to hear from teachers is a good feeling.
She visited several Arkansas schools as Teacher of the Year.
She’s seen what’s good and what needs to be improved.
“Every child in Arkansas, from the Delta to the Northwest, deserves the best, and we’re going to give it to them.”
Saum says she’s seen significant growth in inclusive practices involving special needs students, such as ensuring they still have access to the curriculum and spend time with their general education peers in that classroom.
“To see the progress they can make, we can have incredible growth when children are given those opportunities.”
Saum was awarded a one-year sabbatical as Teacher of the Year, which will end in July.
She’ll have a hectic six months ahead of her.
Saum has been named a Presidential Leadership Scholar for 2023.
This opportunity will allow her to learn about leadership through the lens of Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Johnson’s presidential experiences.