Director of Student Services, Orangeburg County School District
“Teaching is one of the most important professions,” said Hayward Jean. “It’s so much more than a job. A teacher is literally building another human being.”
There’s a lot of building on Jean’s watch.
The Orangeburg County School District, where he is director of student services, educates more than 11,000 students, many being brought up in economically challenged circumstances and in non-traditional households.
Jean can speak to these students and their families from the heart – in ways they understand. His remarkable mom singlehandedly raised him, his twin brother, and a sister in less-than-ideal circumstances in Langley, South Carolina.
“I didn’t know we had grown up in poverty until I became an adult,” said Jean. “The values at home were about what was in our heads, not on our feet or backs.”
Jean added, “Mom taught us self-worth and the concept of servant leadership – that we’re here to make life better for others. She also made sure we had family and community support to reinforce her teachings. That’s the essence of what we do as educators.”
His experience and worldview clearly inspire young people.
Before becoming an administrator, Jean received “School Teacher of the Year” and was a finalist of “District Teacher of the Year” for his classroom accomplishments in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five. He also accepted the NAACP South Carolina State Conference’s “Presidential Citation Award” for education advocacy, and the Orangeburg Branch of the NAACP awarded him its “Presidential Citation for Educator of the Year” in 2016.
In nine years as a principal at Mellichamp Elementary School in Orangeburg, Jean and a dynamic team of professionals made history together. They led Mellichamp in a single year from an ‘F’ state achievement rating to an ‘A’ rating. The next year, Jean and the team earned the school’s first-ever “Palmetto Silver Award” for academic performance.
In 2020, Mellichamp was one of two schools in the country to obtain the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET)’s “School of Promise Award.” Several Mellichamp teachers and students received local, district, and state recognition for this work.
Jean’s innovative methods as a teacher and an administrator have made him a natural partner with Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC).
“TFASC teachers brought a perspective into our schools that added great value to the experiences we’re giving our students,” said Jean. “When new teachers arrive already having done their homework in the historical context of South Carolina, the impact can’t be underestimated.”
He added, “Many TFASC teachers walked into classrooms understanding the racial gaps of Orangeburg and the impact that they have today. Teachers like Rachel Brailov looked at students with resilience, saw their value, and the greatness they hold. To me, TFASC was like a breath of fresh air for our students and faculties.”
The national teacher shortage affects South Carolina too. That makes TFASC even more valuable in Jean’s view.
“We need to remove as many barriers to teaching as possible,” he stressed. “Everybody who wants to teach deserves a personalized path. If we teach that there’s only one way to become an educator, we’re telling students there’s only one way to become successful. Alternative pathways have let us find some of our best teachers.”
The bottom line for Jean?
“We want to ensure that students develop a sense of who they are, why they exist, and what they’re going to do about it,” he said. “We want them to know they have value, special talents, and gifts. And our schools are intentional about making sure when students leave, they have a plan for life.”
In other words, he’s building people.