Camelia Jackson, far right, stands with her fellow National Board Certified teachers Judy Conlin, Angie Lawson and Debbie Felts after they were presented their plaques.

Her life was teaching, her passion was education, and her days ended far too soon. These were the feelings shared about South Laurel High School teacher Camelia Jackson, 33, who died Friday evening after a car accident.

“Teaching was her life,” Superintendent David Young said. “The most tragic part of it is those students who won’t have her expertise in the future. The challenge to the teachers is to give the services to students she would have provided.”

Deputy Superintendent Greg Smith said Jackson graduated from North Laurel High School in 1993, making her part of the school’s first graduating class. At the time, Smith was principal of the school.

“She’s one of our kids,” he said. “She was on academic team, on student council, she did it all. She was a wonderful student.”

Following graduation, Jackson earned her bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish at the University of the Cumberlands and went on to teach in Bell County. In 2003, she returned to Laurel County and started teaching at South Laurel that fall.

There, she quickly started making a reputation for herself.

“I didn’t know her personally, but I probably knew her professionally more than 90 percent of the staff in the district,” Young said.

He said it wouldn’t be unusual for him to drop by the school at “6:30, 9, 10:30 at night and I’d see her in her classroom working.”

“Finally I asked, ‘Who is this teacher?’” he said. “They’d always tell me such positive remarks.”

In addition to teaching English, Jackson was the coach of the academic team. She was proud of her team this year and was pleased to send four students to the state Governor’s Cup last weekend.

“I am really proud of the team this year for getting so far,” she said last week. “We lost four seniors last year, so I expected this year to be more of a rebuilding period, but they totally exceeded all expectations.”

Like she did with her students, Jackson continued to push herself to succeed. She was recognized earlier this year for earning her National Board Certification, a prestigious distinction earned after two years of rigorous work and study. Jackson was one of only 12 teachers in the district to be certified.

“She really did set a standard for us all to follow,” Smith said.

That standard was readily recognized by her peers, who selected her to receive the Campbellsville Excellence in Teaching award this year.

Brenda Priddy, dean of the Campbellsville University School of Education, said the award could be given posthumously at the ceremony in May.

South Laurel Principal Regina Bishop said she, her students and her staff were grieving over the loss Monday. In turn, extra counselors were on hand to help students and staff cope. District staff will be sent to the school today so teachers can attend Jackson’s funeral.

Jackson is the third teacher the graduating class of 2009 has lost. Six years ago, South Laurel Middle School’s Beth Ketcham, who taught art, died. Two years later, South Middle’s eighth-grade teacher Jan Duncun also passed away.

Funeral services for Jackson will be at 2 p.m. today at Soul’s Harbor Church. Visitation was Monday night at the church.

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at

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