We are excited to share that Jessica Wheeler Saum, Ben Lippen Class of 2001, has been named the 2022 Arkansas Teacher of the Year.
This special education teacher at Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot, Arkansas, is also a military wife and mom to Magnolia, 8, and Tucker, 9. Because Jessica’s husband, Lt. Col. Shane Saum, is on a year-long deployment, he was unable to attend in-person the surprise announcement at Jessica’s school last fall. However, her parents, Linda and Jeff Wheeler, were able to travel there from South Carolina as Jessica was honored at a school-wide pep rally.
Over the past few years, Jessica has been recognized for her work in education and with military families. In 2019, she was the 314th Air Wing Key Spouse of the Year. Last year, she was the Cabot, Arkansas, Public Schools Teacher of the Year as well as an Association of American Educators Advocacy Fellow.
Serving as a special needs teacher is Jessica’s true calling. She said, “Every child deserves what’s best. Every child deserves an opportunity to succeed, and every child deserves for us to expect them to do great things.”
She fondly remembers her time at Ben Lippen. Jessica shared, “As a student, I did not recognize the investment my teachers were making in my life both inside and out of the classroom. As an educator myself now, I can fully appreciate how much the staff cares for students and what a unique school Ben Lippen is. My teachers at Ben Lippen prioritized learning that transcended the classroom and emphasized relationships without sacrificing academic rigor.”
Jessica continued by remembering the way Ben Lippen Bible Teacher Dale Angstadt impacted her life. She said, “To this day I can say that Mr. Angstadt is the best teacher I ever had and made a great impact in my life showing me how to hold high expectations for all students while ensuring they always know they are safe and cared for.”
Jessica will begin her term of service as Teacher of the Year in July 2022. She said that she wants to continue to partner with Little Rock Air Force Base to work on better serving military families and students. She also hopes to connect with Dr. Jill Biden on the First Lady’s “Joining Forces Initiative,” which helps military spouses find quality employment opportunities.