January Teacher of the Month: Jonathan Piker

TUCKERMAN, AR (KAIT) - Jonathon Piker, a Jackson County native, was selected as our January Teacher of the Month.

Piker teaches third- and fourth-grade special education students at Tuckerman Elementary School and has been teaching in the Jackson County School District for about 13 years.

Piker said he always knew he wanted to enter the education field and that helping others was his calling.

"Just getting to see that light bulb come on when a kid gets something and understands what you're talking about and it's something they can take with them is the greatest part, Piker said. "It's a great pride in getting to do those kinds of things for the kids."

When he was 17 years old, Piker had a life changing experience on Halloween night.

"I went to have a glass of water, and after I drank some cold water, I bent down to a cabinet, and my arm just took off by itself, and I suffered a grand mal seizure that night," Piker said. "I was taken to the hospital in Newport, and they did tests and found a spot on my brain. Then, I was sent to St. Bernards in Jonesboro. There, I had two different brain surgeries and was released from there into St. Jude's care for the next five months."

Doctors discovered Piker had brain cancer and diagnosed him with an astrocytoma brain tumor, a tumor that Piker said has tentacles that sink into the brain.

"At the time, they did an experimental procedure on me, and I'm one of so many that they did and I was one of a few that survived that certain treatment with positive results," Piker said. "The support of my family and everybody got me through it. At the time, it was my girlfriend, who's now my wife of almost 17 years, she's been by my side the whole time."

Despite his medical problems, Piker continued life as it was. He attended school from 8 a.m. to noon then spent the afternoons at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis.

Piker hit a big milestone at the end of his senior year of high school, he not only walked away with his high school diploma, but he also finished his last cancer treatment the same day.

He said the extra help he received from teachers during that difficult time also inspired him to enter the education field.

There's a nice balance of fun and school work in Piker's classroom.

One of his favorite parts is spending time with his students, celebrating their successes, and watching them flourish in the inclusion classes.

Piker co-teaches with other teachers at Tuckerman Elementary, making sure every student in the classroom understands the lesson for the day.

"They really like it," Piker said. "They get to be around their peers, they get to have that interaction, they get to work in groups with the other students, and they really seem to just flourish in that atmosphere."

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