By Kara Witherow, Editor
Jessica Lawhorn’s paternal grandfather was a Methodist pastor. He used his booming voice to preach the Good News from behind pulpits in Alabama and Florida. Lawhorn, a teacher, proclaims the gospel in a different way – by teaching children their letters, how to read, and by loving them unconditionally.
Lawhorn, a special education teacher at Seminole County Elementary School in Donalsonville, has been teaching since 2002. She was recently voted the 2021-2022 Seminole County Elementary School Teacher of the Year and the Seminole County School System Teacher of the Year. She’s now in the running for the Georgia Teacher of the Year award.
She believes teaching is her God-given gift, and she uses it to share Christ with others. In addition to teaching in a classroom, she also serves at church by teaching Bible school, Sunday school, and children’s lessons at Colquitt United Methodist Church.
“This is a gift God gave me,” she said. “Some are great athletes, some are great preachers, some are great leaders. I’m a great teacher.”
A veteran educator, Lawhorn is in her second year teaching at Seminole County Elementary School. For 10 years, she was a math inclusion teacher at Seminole County High School, giving instruction in algebra, pre-calculus, and geometry.
Surprised by her move to the elementary school, Lawhorn was at first apprehensive about the transition.
“I went from teaching pre-calculus to high school students to teaching children how to read and sound out the alphabet,” she laughed.
She leaned on her faith, her family, and her friends, who reminded her that God is in control.
“Some of my friends of faith, some teacher friends who know me and pray with me, said, ‘God knows what He’s doing. You may not know, but that’s okay.’ Those friends of mine, two in particular, said they were praying for me and reminded me that God has got this and it’s going to be okay.”
It has been more than okay. Her students – in first through fourth grade – are succeeding and making strides in and out of the classroom. They’re meeting learning goals and she’s teaching them routines, schedules, expectations, how to communicate, and cope.
Above all, they know she cares.
“I work first and foremost on building a relationship with my students,” she said. “They trust me, they know I care about them. Their families know I care about them. I will visit them at their house; I’m going to go to whatever lengths it takes.”
Lawhorn chokes up when talking about teaching and her students. Education is her passion and her calling.
But Lawhorn teaches more than just reading, writing, and arithmetic. Through her actions she imparts an education in Christlike character.
“I think that our ability to show Christ through our actions speaks way louder than we will ever know,” she said. “Being kind, being patient, being honest, having empathy … our actions really are important. In my actions, I show Christ through who I am as a person and hope others acknowledge that’s who it is in me.”
The Colquitt UMC congregation is proud of Lawhorn and her commitment to excellence in education, said Rev. Scott Stanfill.
“This honor recognizes not only the passion and energy Jessica brings into the classroom but also the deep desire she holds to see transformation happen in the lives of all her students,” he said.