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Jessica Pardue named 2022-23 Teacher of the Year for Black’s Mill Elementary School
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Jessica Pardue, center, has been named the 2022-23 Teacher of the Year for Black’s Mill Elementary School. (Photos courtesy of Jessica Pardue)

Jessica Pardue grew up in Dawson County, attending Black’s Mill Elementary School the first year it opened when she was in fifth grade. She worked the after school program at Black’s Mill throughout her high school years, graduated from Dawson County High School and continued volunteering at the elementary school while she was in college. 

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Jessica Pardue, right, has been named the 2022-23 Teacher of the Year for Black’s Mill Elementary School. (Photos courtesy of Jessica Pardue)

Now, Pardue is in her ninth year of teaching at the same elementary school she attended back in fifth grade, and the second grade teacher has been named as the 2022-23 Teacher of the Year for Black’s Mill. 

Pardue said that, while she originally was on the track to become a nurse, she made the decision to become a teacher when she got married and had children. 

“I was pre-nursing, started school, got married, we decided to have kids and I decided I wanted to be home in the summers and involved in the school system,” Pardue said. “I wanted those holidays and breaks with my child and wanted to have more time with my family, so I decided to switch majors.” 

The decision to switch from nursing to teaching, she said, was made easier by the fact that she had always been around Black’s Mill Elementary School, even back to the school’s inaugural year when she was in elementary school herself. 

“When I was in high school I worked the after school program here in the afternoons and worked that after school program up until I started student teaching here, so I’ve kind of always been in the school system,” Pardue said. “Even when I was still a nursing major I was still working the after-school program here with the kids, so it just made sense. This school is like home to me.” 

Pardue said that her favorite part of teaching her second grade class is the personal relationship that she gets to form with each child she teaches. 

“I love the relationships that I build with these students; getting to know them and them getting to know me, and just really understanding them, their likes, their dislikes, their sense of humor,” Pardue said. "It’s really not the academic side but it’s more of the relationship that I build with them that is my favorite.” 

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Jessica Pardue, back left, has been named the 2022-23 Teacher of the Year for Black’s Mill Elementary School. (Photos courtesy of Jessica Pardue)

In her classroom, she said, she prioritizes her students and aims to make her class feel like they’re all one big family. 

“I love first and then I teach second; we’re a big family,” Pardue said. “I tell my kids from the beginning of the year that ‘we’re a family, we’re gonna love each other, we’re gonna encourage each other and we’ll learn after that’. And I love my kids where they are because they all come from different places, but I love them no matter where they’re at in their life or their day or what situations they’re going through.” 

Pardue was selected as the Black’s Mill Elementary School 2022-23 Teacher of the Year by her peers at the school, and she was announced as the teacher of the year during the Black’s Mill field day closing ceremony at the end of the 2021-22 school year. She said that hearing her name called for the honor was completely unexpected for her. 

“I was completely shocked because we have a lot of great teachers here,” Pardue said. “It made me cry; all the kids were chanting and yelling and it was just very humbling and very rewarding.” 

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Black’s Mill Elementary School’s 2022-23 Teacher of the Year Jessica Pardue teaches in her second grade classroom. (Photos courtesy of Jessica Pardue)

She added that knowing that her fellow teachers thought enough of her to vote for her as the teacher of the year is rewarding, especially in light of all of the hard work she puts in for her students each day. 

“You do all that work and when you realize that what you’re doing isn’t going unnoticed, it’s just really great to get that feedback from your peers,” Pardue said. “I don’t feel deserving of it because I feel like there’s always more that I can be doing as a teacher to better myself and my students, so I always feel like I’m not doing enough. I felt like there’s others that are deserving of this opportunity as well, so it was just very humbling.”