Jeff Sigmon – Class of 1989
Art Instructor, Drivers Education Instructor, Draughn High School

Art allows students to learn about themselves, their culture, and their community. Through art education, students can explore their own creativity and imagination, can begin to visualize the world differently, and can learn to express themselves in new and novel ways.

Teaching art has been a life’s work for Jeff Sigmon. “I taught at East Burke for fourteen years and opened Draughn as a Charter Faculty member in 2008. I loved East Burke and always will, but my daughter and her friends would attend Draughn, so I moved. I enjoy working with young people and making them grow and think. It keeps me feeling young. Especially as I enter my twenty-sixth year of teaching, it is important to still feel connected to them. “My grandfather started his own business as an electrician. Later, all three of his sons joined the business. I too worked with them as a young teenager and whenever they needed me. My father encouraged me to pursue a college degree to ensure a better future. During high school, I worked at Western Steer Steak House and Walmart, jobs which continued through college. All of these jobs helped me to learn how to deal with people from all walks of life and how to appreciate and find common ground with anyone.

“I started taking Art classes to enhance my portfolio for Architecture School and never stopped. However, my dad was a part-time youth pastor at the church I grew up in and coached various youth teams as I grew up. I believe his work with those teams and youth ministry students influenced my decision to become a teacher.”

Jeff earned an Associate in Arts degree in Fine Arts from Western Piedmont Community College and then went on to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He later earned his certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and his Academically and Intellectually Gifted certification. “Art teacher Dennis Whitener was a big influence on me in high school. It was a privilege to then work with him as a colleague at East Burke. He helped to continue to mentor me during my first few years of teaching. Mark Jolley was very instrumental in my first years of teaching. He was my assigned mentor as a first-year teacher, but he later became one of my most treasured friends. Rick Sherrill’s ‘tough love’ as an administrator helped challenge me to become a better teacher. Rexanna Lowman and Pat Draughn also always supported me as principals. However, Raymond Goodfellow at Western Piedmont Community College will always be my favorite teacher.

“Honestly I’m not sure students have changed as much as society. Kids still care about the same things they did twenty years ago, but now they are coming from broken or imperfect homes. They are so distracted by cell phones and the immediate response those give that they cannot focus. When I ask them to care about drawing something, they might not have even gone home or have eaten that day. As a teacher, I have learned to weigh each student’s circumstances before passing judgment on a kid.

“The rewards of teaching are obvious. When I have a student succeed, I’m happy.” Sometimes the rewards of a job well done are experienced through everyday life events. “I went to a wedding recently of two former students. They wanted me to be there, which meant I had made a difference in their lives. That is a reward. “Also, I am proud to say that students I have taught are now teachers themselves and are impacting even more students. Currently, three of my former art students are Middle School Art Teachers in Burke County Public Schools.” Art Education and Drivers Education may appear to be poles apart, but Jeff has managed to succeed in both areas. “Even after I became a teacher, I drove a school bus and later began teaching Drivers Education and have taught it for the last eighteen years. This experience has helped me develop nerves of steel and the patience of Job, but it also makes me very proud that I get to interact with almost every student in the school through teaching them and experiencing the milestone of getting a driver’s license with them.

“After I retire from teaching, I plan to find new ways to continue pursuing my love for Art and for students. Whether I decide to volunteer, create art myself, or pursue a completely new career path, I will forever be grateful for the history I have with East Burke and this entire community.”

Published November 2019

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