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Jewell Hamm’s 31-year adult education career changed lives

By Lacy Hilliard
The retirement of at 31-year veteran of the Johnson County School System marks the end of an era and has inspired all those who know her to reflect upon the amazingly dedicated and driven woman that is Jewell Hamm.
Hamm began and ended her career with Johnson County Schools in the adult education department. Throughout the years the program has changed significantly and what began as a part-time job ultimately ended as a journey that spanned decades and changed the lives of countless people. The primary goal of the adult education program is to prepare students that never achieved their high school diplomas to take a test that can ultimately change the course of their futures. Once referred to as the GED (General Education Development) the test has changed three times over the course of Hamm’s career and is now referred to as the HiSET or the High School Equivalency Test. “There are any number of reasons (the students) didn’t finish high school. Some people have family struggles that prevent them from finishing high school. For others it’s just that they didn’t fit well within the traditional education system,” said Hamm. Though Hamm has helped dozens achieve their dream of graduating high school she takes little credit for herself. “The students are so appreciative.” “They act like it’s all us but it’s really all them. They do all the work.” While the students most certainly work hard to pass the HiSET; not every teacher receives accolades from not only local school administrators (present and former) but also from state politicians and lawmakers.
A surprise reception was held to celebrate Hamm’s career and retirement on Wednesday, June 18. The reception was well attended by friends, family and co-workers; it was also attended by local and state politicians. Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey has long been a supporter of adult education and knows the importance of dedicated educators like Hamm; “It’s so important to give people a second chance with adult education,” “Jewell Hamm has long been a leader in the state,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. Hamm’s former co-workers couldn’t say enough about her accomplishments like Dr. John Payne who said, “Jewell Hamm is Ms. Adult Education. She’s done more for adult ed than anyone I know and she’s insistent that even people that didn’t succeed in a traditional high school setting can still get a quality education.” Dr. Mischelle Simcox who is set to replace soon-to-be retiree Morris Woodring as Director of Schools for Johnson County said, “Jewell is very dedicated and I think that is a key quality to have especially when dealing with adult education. She’s passionate and it shows.”
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