Alumni Named Time Magazine’s Influential People

Jennifer Love and Michael Clark, Writers

An alumni  has earned his place in this year’s TIME 100: The Most Influential People. Jay O’Neal, class of 1999, received the honor of being in the TIME ranking for his cogent act of standing up to the West Virginia school board, with a fellow teacher Emily Comer, to convince the board to raise teachers’ pay and prevent the public funding of private institutions.

O’Neal is currently an eighth grade West Virginia history teacher at Charleston’s Stonewall Jackson Middle School. He is also an important figure in his education system by his position as treasurer. His chosen career led him to realize the under-appreciation of educators. With the announcement of a bill to raise the pay of public workers, O’Neal, alongside three West Virginian educator unions, publicly announced their opposition to the bill starting Feb. 23, 2018.

Because of O’Neal’s persistent hard work, he was able to achieve his goal in March, of the same year, with the help of West Virginia’s governor Jim Justice. The influence of his work quickly grew to the point of closing many schools in the area for nearly nine days, drawing more attention to his event. The opposition to the bill became so prominent it was brought to national attention. Other states such as Oklahoma, Arizona, and California began to follow this cause, with the inspiration of O’Neal and many others, for the recognition of the importance of educators.  

O’Neal was selected to be in the TIME 100 for his inspirational act of standing for what he believed was right. His drive for teachers in the town of Charleston affected not only his hometown, but also several cities across the country. With the actions and inspiration of one man, teachers across the United States had the motivation to act on example and fight for what they knew they deserved.