- Sincerely, Southern
Featured teacher: Jessica Edenfield
By: Margaret Brogan
Jessica Edenfield found her passion for teaching at Georgia Southern University and has shared her love for literacy through her work in securing the L4GA grant, which helped to establish the Burke County Literacy Project.
Edenfield began her education journey at GSU in the fall of 1997. During her time as an undergraduate, she tried out several majors before finding her true passion in the Early Childhood Education program.
“I was always called back to education,” said Edenfield. “I knew that I was meant to do that. It was just internal. It was intrinsic for me.”
Upon graduating in 2002, Edenfield worked as a long-term substitute teacher in both Bulloch and Burke Counties during a hiring freeze. She first started at Burke County Schools.
“ It was something that I enjoyed and I pursued it from there,” said Edenfield. “I've never had a regret.”
Further building her career in education, Edenfield returned to GSU to pursue a Master’s Degree before accepting a position as an instructional coach, at SGA Elementary School, providing professional instruction and support to teachers.
“It was always literacy for me, because I've always understood the importance of that,” said Edenfield. “To look and see a child that you get at the very base, when they don't know how to read or they're having difficulties reading, and then you can assist them and you see that light bulb come on. That spark was always my passion.”
Edenfield returned to GSU to complete her specialist degree in curriculum administration and her doctorate in educational leadership before accepting the role of elementary curriculum director.
During her time in this role, she was tasked with applying for the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia grant, better known as the L4GA grant, which promotes literacy in Georgia schools.
The grant helps to provide books and resources directly to the community, even offering guides to help parents implement reading comprehension skills at home with their children.
“We don't think about the impact that it has, and the amount of people that we have right here in our community that cannot read or cannot write and are illiterate, and are trying to help our students to learn how to read,” said Edenfield.
Her passion for her work and her desire to see her students succeed are evident in her interactions with staff and students, said Sam Adkins, former principal of Waynesboro Primary School and close colleague of Edenfield.
“The integration of the Burke Literacy Project as a means to increase the literacy level of our students was a direct result of her research into the project and diligence in the implementation of the project throughout our school district,” said Adkins.
After spending two years in her role as federal programs director, Edenfield decided it was time to return to the classroom, where she could directly implement literacy in a learning environment.
“She has been an excellent addition to the Pre-K staff,” said Julie Jones, the instructional coordinator at Waynesboro Primary School. “She attends the new teacher meetings and enjoys sharing her experiences and passion with them. She is always positive, and she spreads that positivity with her colleagues, students, and parents.”
Edenfield makes a point of spreading positivity in her classroom through the colorful decor and positive messages prominently displayed on each wall.
“The moment that I walked out of a classroom, something was missing, you know, the fulfillment wasn't there anymore," said Edenfield. "I have 19 of my closest little friends around me every day, and it's so great."
“What it's done for my own mental health and the joy that I feel every day is amazing," she said.