2018 Teacher of the Year finalist: Jamey Lovin

This is the second article in a series of profiles about each finalist for Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ 2018 Citywide Teacher of the Year. The citywide winner will be announced at the Teacher of the Year dinner hosted by the Virginia Beach Education Foundation May 4.

Jamey Lovin’s brother will be the first to tell you his sister was born to be a teacher. He was Lovin’s first “student” when he was 3 years old. According to him, Lovin would rush home every day from kindergarten, sit him down and teach him everything she learned that day. The daily lessons continued until he went to kindergarten where he had an edge on his peers after having been in “school” for many years already.

Despite Lovin’s natural inclination for teaching, her professional path did not start in a classroom. She admits she followed the encouragement of others to consider careers other than teaching.

She studied English and political science in college. Then she attended law school for two years before deciding it wasn’t for her. She found solid footing at NAS Oceana, a connection from a summer job in college, where she worked with the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 fighter aircraft introduction program for the East Coast while earning a master’s degree in aeronautical science.

While working as a maintenance engineering analyst with the F/A-18 program, she got married, raised two children and continued teaching Sunday school.

“One of the girls in my Sunday school class is a teacher in a high risk class in Norfolk and she told me I could come read with her kids,” said Lovin. “Oh, my gosh. It was the highlight of my day every day!”

That volunteer work, Lovin’s service in Sunday school and her own sons’ experiences in school, led her to, in her words, “trade my avocation for my vocation and complete the requirements for teacher licensure.”

“I have never looked back,” she added.

Lovin began her teaching career in 2001 in Norfolk and joined Virginia Beach City Public Schools in 2014 as a math specialist at Plaza Middle School, her current position. She also teaches adults as a master teacher for several universities.

“I loved working for the pilots. I really did. They were awesome,” reflected Lovin.

But she’s found something she loves even more.

“I love teaching and learning,” she said, “and although I’m not sure I make a difference in students’ lives, I know they make a difference in mine.”

Plaza’s students and staff will be the first to confirm Lovin is making a difference, though she thinks the students really just like her son’s visits to her afterschool tutoring sessions.

“Jake’s motorcycle tops my plane,” she said. “When I’m tutoring, he rides over to say ‘Hi’ and they all want to go out and sit on his motorcycle. He’s the coolest on the planet.”

Lovin seems pretty cool herself. She, however, simply considers herself lucky.

“I love what I do,” she said, “[and] I have a great family and really, really, great colleagues. I’m very lucky.”

Learn more about Lovin through her responses to the questions below.

If you could not work as a teacher, which job would you make as your career and why?
I think I would like to be a librarian. I LOVE to read and the idea of being the first to know about awesome new books and have unlimited access to them sounds like heaven on earth!

What is the best teaching advice you’ve been given?
Parents send you their best every day. You have an enormous responsibility to honor that trust – treat them like they were your own.

What activities are on your bucket list?
I actually don’t have a bucket list. I’ve been fortunate to have traveled the world and participated in a number of adventures as the daughter of a member of the U.S. Navy.

Describe your perfect day off.
Floating in my pool, book in hand on a sunny day. If that book were about math, icing on the cake!

What or who inspires you, and why?
My parents inspire me. As a child they were the best parents around. They provided a comfortable, loving environment for my brother and me. Everyone loved being at our house and many, many called my parents “mom” and “dad.” They were the basketball coaches and scout leaders – all the while maintaining successful careers and being leaders of their professional organizations. On holidays you never knew who would show up for dinner. One Thanksgiving, my dad was sent to the store for some rolls. He forgot the rolls but brought home an elderly man he met in the grocery store. The man had just lost his wife and was buying a frozen turkey dinner. My dad didn’t want him to be alone.

My parents have retired to Yuma, Arizona, and continue to do great things for others. Both volunteer in their professional organizations and in their church. My mom coordinates everything for the Navy Relief Society Auxiliary and the Methodist Women. My dad loves to fish and sneaks off to do that as often as he can at their home in Mexico, but he has found a way to turn that relaxation into a gift for others. He saves the fish he catches and plays host to quarterly fish fries in the senior community where they live. Many join in making hush puppies, coleslaw and baking pies. They use the money they earn to build homes for homeless families for the sister Mexican church their Yuma congregation has adopted. They have been my inspiration for over 50 years!

What is your favorite quote?
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Describe a favorite school memory or memory of a teacher you have from when you were a student.
We were studying pumps in elementary school. That night I sat at the table trying to understand the concept of vacuum. No lights were going on. I. Did. Not. Get. It. My father explained it to me three times through. When he noticed I had no idea about what he was talking, he asked my mother for a straw and some dark liquid (we used tea). He showed me how, as I removed the air from the straw by inhaling it, the water rose in the straw. The light went on. The next night he asked me to explain how the turkey baster worked. I remember those lessons (and more) often and try to give my students real-life, hands-on examples of math.

Describe when or how you knew you wanted to become a teacher.
I think I always did want to be a teacher. I used to rush home from kindergarten to teach my brother lessons I had learned that day.

What advice would you give to a new teacher?
No one will tell you that the job of a teacher is not tough and there will be times when you don’t think you have the energy to do one more thing for one more child, but do it. You have THE all important job and you will never regret giving yourself to the children who count on you.

If you had an opportunity to talk to any person from history, who would it be and why?
Socrates – without him, history would be profoundly different. I’d love to observe how he was able to conduct lessons in the marketplace and impact great thinkers and problem solvers like Plato and Aristotle.

Speed Round: List as many of your favorites that you care to share.
Favorite food: Seafood
Dessert: Cheesecake or coconut cake
Restaurant: Fellini’s
Book: at this moment, reading again “Mere Christianity”
Author: C.S. Lewis
Song: at this moment, anything by Ed Sheeran
Musician: Darius Rucker
Artist: van Gogh
Place: Nelson 151 (near Charlottesville)
Vacation spot: Hatteras Island
Sports team: Vikings, Kings, Mets
Candy: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

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