Specialist (E4) U.S. Army National Guard, Teacher
Colleton County, South Carolina, spoke to Sam Hammer.
He’d seen a lot of the world. Born in India, Hammer grew up in California and Denver. Before college graduation from Biola Universty, he’d traveled to London, Washington, D.C., and the Middle East. In all that globe-trotting, he’d never before felt what he felt after his placement by Teach For America South Carolina (TFASC) at Colleton County High School.
“It’s a special place,” said Hammer. “The natural beauty is unreal. I had a five-minute drive to the school. I got to see my students in the grocery store and outside class. They’d ask, Hey, Mr. Hammer, are you coming to our game tonight? Hey, Mr. Hammer, we saw you at the traffic light! Were you listening to AC/DC?”
Hammer found himself by losing himself in this tiny coastal South Carolina community.
“I went there as a self-centered college graduate who growing up had never been exposed to diversity and equal opportunity issues,” he said. “I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do after college, so I decided to try TFASC while I sorted things out.”
He found his calling.
“I can honestly say that TFASC helped me figure out what Sam Hammer brings to the table,” he said. “Now I see myself as a teacher. I have TFASC to thank for making me an advocate for education.”
What Hammer returned to the community has had undeniable impact. A biology science major, his classrooms in his first semester showed the biggest jump in achievement in the county. He did it the new-fashioned way – instead of lectures, STEM students found themselves immersed in project-based learning. Hands-on research and experiments. Tangible projects that taught discovery and fueled imaginations.
“I didn’t know I had this ability to get kids excited in the classroom,” admitted Hammer. “It’s one more thing I learned about myself here.”
“A good teacher must be taught,” he said. “We have to be teachable as teachers.”
Hammer joined the South Carolina National Guard after teaching at Colleton County High School and an area charter school. Uncle Sam assigned him to Arizona for four months of military intelligence training. He’ll return to the Low Country in 2022 to join a private school and learn teaching from that perspective.
He’ll also be a steadfast ambassador for education. He compares the work of teachers to the bridges linking Low Country islands.
“Teachers should be going out into communities on a regular basis and building bridges, creating ties, developing relationships with communities and companies, and bringing them into the educational space,” said Hammer.
“If we’re educating children to hold professional jobs, shouldn’t those professions play a part in education too? The future of those companies depends on who they get as employees. We’ll see a more positive impact on education when we see corporate America picking up the baton.”