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Former Zookeeper Having a Blast in Second Career as a Teacher

Teaching has become a second career for Jeff Souther, and it’s more of a natural transition than one might think for the former zookeeper.

Before becoming a sixth-grade science teacher at Summit Creek Academy, Souther was a zookeeper for about 10 years. He would feed, clean, and train the animals, but another aspect of the job was rooted in education – public outreach through tours and presentations.

While he enjoyed getting people excited about science and nature while engaging with the public, Souther knew that he wanted to try his hand at a different profession.

“I knew I loved kids and teaching,” he said. “It was an adjustment jumping right into a brand new career, but I love the kids. I love teaching, I love being in the classroom. I’m glad I made the switch.”

Souther has been at Summit Creek since midway through its first school year, starting in January 2022 on the first day back from holiday break. His relatively short time as a teacher has been all that he had hoped it would be, thanks in part to the community that has been established at Summit Creek.

“I don’t think I would have lasted as a new teacher without the support that I got here from the school and the people that worked here,” he said.

Souther has quickly learned that his favorite part of teaching is helping students make a connection or tie several threads together to have a “eureka” moment. That can be challenging sometimes with a subject like science, but Souther does his best to get students to think critically, ask questions, and make good observations.

“I’m just proud of everything the kids have learned,” he said. “They really seem to enjoy my class. They do well in my class. I'm just proud that it's going well, they have a good time, and they’re learning. I don't want them dreading coming in here. I’m proud of the connections and the relationships I’ve been making with the students and getting them excited about learning about science.”

Keep up the excellent work, Mr. Souther!

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About Summit Creek Academy
Summit Creek Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school located in Browns Summit, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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