It takes a one-of-a-kind person to be able to keep over 40 elementary school children calm and focused.
Jami Washington, always with a big smile on her face, disciplines the children of Downtown Academy with just the right amount of love and guidance.
A lover of “The Walking Dead” and an avid reader, above all Jami is a mom. Jami describes herself as a “crazy gym mom.” Her 9-year-old daughter is a competitive gymnast who practices 12 hours a week. As a single mother with no family nearby, Jami relies on her friends for help and support with her daughter. “It takes a village to raise a child,” Jami said. She is thankful to have her co-workers at Downtown Academy as her “village.”
Jami Washington is a kindergarten teacher at Downtown Academy. Downtown Academy is a non-profit, private elementary school that seeks to provide a first-rate and rigorous education for the inner-city children of Athens-Clarke County. As well as teaching kindergarten, Jami is in charge of the after school program and fundraising for the school.
Jami attended the University of South Carolina for her undergraduate degree as an education specialist. She started her masters at the University of Georgia and finished her masters online.
“Jami is a phenomenal teacher. Her enthusiasm in the classroom is contagious; every day is exciting,” said Alyssa Fowler, a teacher at Downtown Academy. “I am always blown away by her administrative skills; she runs the after-school program, juggles networking for fundraising, and creates the yearbook for Downtown Academy. She does it all with a great attitude and is ready to encourage others throughout the day,” Fowler said.
“I knew I would never pursue my dream if I had a job to fall back on,” said Jami. Jami taught in public school for nine years and quit her job with no backup plan.
Jami was the first teacher hired when Downtown Academy opened on Aug. 7, 2013. She took a $20,000 per year pay-cut, but she knew without a doubt that it was the right decision.
“Jami goes above and beyond in everything, whether it is in the classroom or after-school,” said Neki Porter, a teacher at Downtown Academy.
Jami said she tries to approach discipline with the gospel. She strives for a no-nonsense, no excuses atmosphere. Her goal is to raise the students to be global citizens.
“I can always count on her students to know what is expected of them each day; Jami blends structure with spontaneity beautifully in the classroom,” Fowler said.
One of Jami’s favorite parts of her job is the freedom she has to teach. They have had pool parties for the kids as well as have taken them to see the Christian rapper Lecrae.
There was a day that Jami was trying to explain what an adventure was to her kindergarten class. The kindergarteners did not understand what an adventure was, so Jami took them around downtown Athens so they could experience their own real adventure. This freedom allows Jami to connect with her students in a way that is not allowed in the public school system.
Every child at Downtown Academy has a scholarship that helps their parents send them to school. Every parent has to pay something though, Jami said. That is an incentive for them to make sure they are sending their children to school since the money comes out of their own pockets. The parents of these children make a sacrifice to make sure their children can receive the best education possible.
Jami has had the ability to see the ripple effect that Downtown Academy has had on the Athens community. The lessons and values that the children learn at school have a direct affect on their parents, and in turn the rest of the community.
The most challenging part of Jami’s job is getting so invested in the lives of the children at Downtown Academy. There are times when parents cannot afford to send their children to Downtown Academy and they have to go back to public school. “It’s like losing a member of my family,” Jami said.
Despite the challenges, Jami is optimistic about the future of Downtown Academy, as they will continue to add a grade of school each year. Her hard work and dedication have had a direct impact on the struggling children and families in Athens-Clarke County.