Jamie McNeely Class of 1982
Head Womens Basketball Coach, Business Teacher, Freedom High School

Teaching is one of those careers that is often referred to as a calling rather than an occupation . Many people who grew up wanting to teach but decided to try another path often make their way back to the field of education. Fortunately for so many students, Jamie McNeely is one of those people.

From the time I was very young, I always wanted to be a teacher, she explains. My aunt, Nancy Clark, who taught business at Drexel High and at East Burke, and her husband, Dean Clark, who played many roles as an educator, were big role models and inspirations to me, and as I grew up, I always thought that would be my path as well.

Jamie began her college career at Elon, where she played basketball, and later earned a BA in accounting from Lenoir-Rhyne. I thought the field of accounting would be a good career, and I worked for a while for Weir, Smith, and Jones accounting firm in Morganton. But after a while, I realized that my heart really was in teaching, just as I had always thought while growing up, So she earned her teaching certification and a Masters degree in Instructional Technology from Appalachian State.

I taught for five years at East Burke, where I also coached JV womens basketball. As a member of the Business Education department, I mostly taught computer classes centering around Microsoft Word, Access, Excel, and PowerPoint. I enjoyed the students, and I loved teaching so much. One of the greatest joys of the classroom was knowing that the skills that the students were learning would be useful to them throughout their lives no matter what career they would pursue.

I also loved coaching. While winning games is always the goal, I have to say that what I enjoyed most was team practice. I loved teaching the young women the fundamentals of the game, practicing the skills needed to succeed, and building a great team spirit. Playing team sports is such a character-building activity. Working together on a team takes cooperation and trust, qualities that extend far beyond the court and into all aspects of life. And its fun.

In 1996, Jamie moved on to teach and coach at Freedom High. I started as JV womens basketball coach, but after the first year, Marsha Crump, who was varsity coach at the time, surprised me by retiring from coaching, and I took over the varsity team.

With persistence, determination, and hard work not to mention those skills and fundamentals that she enjoyed teaching The Lady Patriots won the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class 4A Womens State Championship in 2002, and Jamie had the great honor of being named the Associated Press State Coach of the Year.

I had great mentors who motivated and inspired me along the way. While a student at East Burke, I enjoyed the business classes taught by Betty Pennell, Jean Pursley, and others, including my aunt, Nancy Clark. I played basketball and ran track, and my coaches were always there to instruct and guide. Basketball coach Judy Keever was always consistent and required us to do our best and be successful. As for academic classes, I learned some good math skills from Elsie Whisenant, and I vividly remember how Mark Jolley made biology fun and enjoyable. My basketball coach at Elon, Mary Jackson, was also a great guiding force, and Ill always be glad that Marsha Crump stayed at Freedom for a year after she gave up coaching and was available for advice and encouragement.

After a successful career in the classroom and as a coach, Jamie has retired from public education and enjoys traveling, spending time at the beach, and cheering for the Carolina Panthers. I will always be glad that I followed my heart and chose the be a teacher and a coach. It has been a truly rewarding experience.

Published January 2021

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