Jill Jett, the new South Aiken High School principal, is coming from the same role at Strom Thurmond High School, but she's hardly new to Aiken County.

She's a native of Aiken and an Aiken High School graduate. Years later, she would teach for two years at South Aiken, before moving to Silver Bluff High for 16 years. Jett also lives in Aiken, only about five minutes from South Aiken, where she will succeed Bryan Skipper.

She found her five years in administration at Strom Thurmond rewarding, but when she heard about the open position, “I thought about it for a week, and how I needed it for myself and my career at a much larger school,” Jett said.

The Aiken County Board of Education selected her at a Board meeting on Tuesday. Dr. Tim Yarborough, the School District's academic officer, called her a few minutes later, and “I was very grateful and very emotional ... I met with the faculty (on) Thursday. It was a wonderful experience, and there are still people there I know.”

Jett taught at South Aiken from 1989 to 1991, and former colleagues Beth Beckham and Anne Poplin are delighted she is joining them again.

“We have come full circle,” Beckham said. “I hear that she is a hard worker, and I look forward to teaming up with her to continue South Aiken's legacy of excellence.”

Jett credits now-retired Aiken High teacher Jim Sheehan for influencing her to teach at the high school level. That would give her the opportunity to have an impact on the teenagers, helping them determine what they want to do as they grow up.

A secondary education graduate of Clemson University, Jett majored in history with a minor in Spanish. She and her husband, David, later started a family, and she remained home before teaching in Augusta and Georgetown for a few years.

After Jett's experience at South Aiken, she found another home at Silver Bluff, teaching history for eight years and Spanish the next eight. She decided to go into administrative work and received a master's degree from Augusta State University. Edgefield school officials then hired Jett as Strom Thurmond's assistant principal in 2009.

“The hardest part was leaving the classroom,” she said. “Yet I found I could have more influence on students by helping teachers with strategies and classroom management. Teaching today is more demanding, and the stress is unbelievable. Teachers understand their role.”

Unexpectedly, the Strom Thurmond principal left the District in the summer of 2011. Jett was appointed as the interim principal and then assumed the formal position a few months later. She was so appreciative that, “They trusted me with that responsibility,” she said. “Those in Edgefield are like family, too, and it's hard for me to leave them, too. But I'm so excited about coming to South Aiken.”

Yarborough is impressed with Jett in many ways – including her knowledge of all the facets of the high school experience and her commitment to working long hours.

“She will be a great fit for the faculty,” Yarborough said. “I felt like they've bonded, and so many people already knew her or her family.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.