LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – It’s one thing to be at the game, but it’s another thing to be on the field.

All of the Nation’s teacher of the year winners were honored during the national anthem of the 2023 College Football National Championship between Georgia and TCU.

Jessica Saum teaches special education at Stagecoach Elementary in Cabot. She is Arkansas’s 2022 Teacher of the Year.

“I’m not a super emotional person but it was hard to hold back the tears in that moment,” said Saum. 

She was able to meet and visit with The Second Gentleman, Douglas Emhoff and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

It was a surreal moment for Saum to speak with men who make decisions in our nation. 

She says during this experience as Teacher of the Year, she’s learned that her voice matters and that “teachers’ voices belong everywhere these decisions are being made.”

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has stated that she will be quote “Arkansas’s education governor.”

Saum says she spoke with the Governor while she was running for office. 

“I think it’s really important that when we are asked to share our voice and experiences that we give it.” 

Saum adds that the Governor deserves to hear from teachers and it’s a good feeling to know the Governor wants to hear from teachers.

As Teacher of the Year, she’s visited a number of Arkansas Schools.

She’s seen the good and seen what needs improvement.

“Every child from the Delta to Norhtwest Arkansas deserves the best and we’re going to give it to them.”

One area that Saum says she’s seen major growth in has been inclusive practices involving special needs students by making sure they’re still getting access to the curriculum and making sure they’re getting time with their general education peers in that classroom.

“To see the progress, they are able to make, we can have amazing growth when children are given those opportunities.”

Saum received a one-year sabbatical for the role of Teacher of the Year,  which will be complete in July. 

She’ll have a busy 6-months ahead of her. 

Saum has been named one of the 2023 Presidential Leadership Scholars. 

This opportunity will give her the chance to learn about leadership through the lens of the presidential experiences of President Bush, Clinton, and Johnson.