Class Act: Teacher is seen as a ‘father-figure’ to students

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 6:11 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The countdown is on for the last day of school across Northeast Arkansas.

While there aren’t many days left of learning, in room 319 at Annie Camp Jr. High School, students are preparing for one of their last Civic tests on the Judicial Branch.

The class is led by Mr. Jeff Clem, and according to 9th grader, Julia Young, he’s always supporting students and encouraging them.

“I think a lot of students think of him as more of a father figure to them, especially some students who don’t have fathers or fathers who aren’t who are absent in their lives,” she said.

Young nominated Clem for Region 8′s May Class Act for this year, something he was surely surprised about.

“I am very appreciative. It is a little overwhelming, but it’s all about my students as well. But, they are the reason I’m here,” she said.

According to principal Reginald Murphy, his presence is felt throughout the building.

“He’s a favorite of students, staff. He’s on our leadership team. For the second year in a row, he’s a finalist for our teacher of the year at Annie Camp. So, he’s thought very highly by the staff and students here,” he said.

Murphy says he wasn’t shocked to hear Clem had won the nomination, but he’s thankful Annie Camp also gets the recognition.

“Mr. Clem is definitely worthy. He’s consistent. He’s the kid’s love. He’s real and they know that,” he said. “So I’m very proud of him. It’s a great honor for him. But, it’s also a great honor for our school.”

Clem was a known athlete from his hometown of Strawberry, winning meaning accolades from best athlete to even most likely to be successful. However, he was also on top of his game in the classroom, making all A’s.

“I took the long way around through college, several different colleges, finished up at ASU. I went to junior college, played basketball and it was always kind of assumed that I was going to be a coach or in education in some capacity,” Clem said. “I never made it back to the coaching, but I was always passionate about Social Studies and History. So my mom was retired with 50 years as an educator, my aunt did 48, so you know, I was around educators growing up and played an important role.”

Now he’s playing that same role for many students.

“I recently applied to youth council, and he wrote an amazing recommendation letter and really supported me in applying for that. In every student’s life, he constantly engages in their in-school and out-of-school activities,” Young said.

Clem said junior high is a difficult time for students, and since he teaches so many 9th graders, he constantly thinks of the struggles his students face outside of academics.

“There are days where we all have bad days as an adult, but when we were in junior high it’s a huge time. You just have to be in touch kind of with where the students are and realize that you know, the things that they get from my classroom, as far as academics, and socially just going forward knowing that there’s somebody here that if they need something if they need advice, you know, I’m here,” he said.

Clem has been an educator for 16 years, and for the next 16, he plans to maintain the same energy he has today.

“Just to maintain the energy level and the effort there that it takes to be an educator and to not just go through the motions. To keep the energy and have the same energy in 16 years that I have now and I had 15 to 16 years ago,” Clem said.

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