Students return as teachers at their alma mater

A playwright once said you can never go home again. Not so for several Bob Jones High School graduates who have returned to their alma mater to teach.

These teachers include Amy Ward Thaxton, 1999, English; Chris Townsend, 1996, school resource officer; Lauren Cole, 2007, and Hope Davis, 2002, foreign language; Elizabeth Lakso Vaughn, 2003, art; Denise Adkison, 2005, science; Megan Clark Kerstiens, 2004, math; and Lisa Johnston Parkes, 1981, clerical aide.

Class of 2006 alumni turned teachers are Desmond Jackson, science; Jessye Gessner Gaines, engineering; and Jennifer Voorhies, English.

Jackson teaches physical and environmental science and genetics and coaches basketball. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Alabama A&M University, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in biology.

At first, Jackson was a substitute teacher and coach. Last fall, Principal Robby Parker offered him a full-time position.

Bob Jones resembles a “min-college with so many more classes.” Fellow teachers respect Jackson but “I’m a rookie so … I’m their student all over again.” Teachers sometimes confuse Jackson with his brother, a Bob Jones senior. His son Deslen Miles Jackson is one year old.

Gaines appreciates teaching with high school friends, being hired by her former principal and eating lunch with former teachers. She choreographs for show choir and coaches engineering teams.

A graduate of Auburn University, Gaines is pursuing an alternative baccalaureate-level certificate in mathematics at Athens State University.

“Teaching (is) in my veins,” Gaines said, citing three grandparents, mother, brother and aunt as educators. “I was in the right place at the right time” when the Bob Jones Engineering Academy organized. “I stumbled upon my dream job.”

Last October, Gaines performed in a dance team reunion at half-time. Some of Gaines’ students were in the band and stands — shocked she could high kick. “It was a blast to be on the field performing with current students,” she said.

She and husband Luke Gaines started dating in tenth grade.

Voorhies graduated from the University of Alabama and was confident about returning to Bob Jones. She observed numerous schools and had “no doubt that Bob Jones is the state’s best school. Mr. Parker was also a large factor. I’ve never known a principal to care more about (a) school. I noticed the paramount passion he had for this school” and wanted to work for him.

She coaches varsity basketball cheerleaders.

“Technology has definitely changed,” Voorhies said. “We’ve gone from overhead projectors to SmartBoards and sound systems.”

Voorhies’ former teachers inspired her to teach. As colleagues, they treat her with utmost respect.

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