The middle school softball game last Thursday evening began like so many others before developing into a shocking tragedy.
The Lady Rebels were playing a middle school game in Gulfport when Coach Steven Jordan collapsed near the end of the game and was rushed to the hospital. He was suffering a massive stroke. He never recovered, succumbing the following day.
Social media exploded with the news.
In addition to coaching softball, Jordan was a teacher in the Middle School Star Academy. Star Academy is a specialized curriculum designed to get students who have fallen behind and been kept back a grade level or two on track to graduate high school with their peers. It is a drop-out prevention program.
“He was always smiling, an all-around awesome guy,” remembers fellow teacher and friend Walter Van Vleck. “He was there to make kids happy.”
Van Vleck, who teaches Special Education students, and Jordan had spoken before Jordan and the softball team traveled to Gulfport.
“He was in my room talking with me,” Van Vleck recalls. “He expressed that he enjoyed spending his time working with the kids, talking with the kids, listening to them and their issues and problems more than he enjoyed the teaching side of it.”
Van Vleck added that the kids who had gone through the Star Academy have been successful in high school. Jordan played a large role in that success, he said.
It was not just the Star Academy students in his classroom that Jordan touched. Van Vleck said Jordan made a special point of coming into his class of Special Education students, kids with severe learning disabilities, to talk with them and make them laugh. He also helped walk them to their classroom in the mornings and they would sit in the cafeteria and wait for him to visit with them after making morning announcements on the school’s intercom system.
“The staff and students at GCMS are saddened by the passing of a beloved friend, co-worker, teacher, coach and mentor to students and staff alike,” said Middle School Principal Julie Miller in a media statement.
“Coach Jordan has left a massive void in our hearts and our halls. His kindness and selfless service is surpassed by no one. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve beside him for the past several years, he will be greatly missed. Over the years he has become the “voice” of GCMS, greeting students every morning with a booming, “Good Morning George County Middle School.”
Fellow Star Academy teacher Brittany Brown posted the following on her Facebook page.
“Coach Steven Jordan, your love, compassion, and generosity to Star Academy, George County Middle School, and the larger community will always be remembered. For years, you entertained us at lunch, drove us on many field trip adventures, and counseled our students daily in addition to brightening everyone’s days with your comical personality. Today, our Star Academy team is dim, but you will always shine bright.”
Although he was known as an exemplary teacher with a humorous personality and a great compassion for the students, he may be best remembered as a softball coach. In his 10 years at George County, he taught and coached at the High School for five years before going to the Middle School.
Coach Bruce Thornton had the following to say.
“I am truly heartbroken as I try to find words to express what Steven Jordan meant to me and my family. I have lost a great friend and George County has lost a great teacher, coach and example for the young people of our county. I was honored to be a part of the softball program with Steven for five years.
“Our relationship on a ball field goes much farther back. In 1977 or 78, the Singing River Bank team was coached by his Dad and included me and his brother Stan. Steven was the bat boy for our team.
“When he joined the (George County High School) softball program in 2009, he brought a kind, caring attitude that carried over throughout his 10 years of coaching. Despite my best efforts to convince him to be tougher and meaner at times he eventually taught me that as long as you were genuine and consistent with being who you are those players will respect you and play their hearts out for you. He knew that players had to know you cared before they care about what you know.”
Services for teacher and coach Steven Jordan will be held in the George County Middle School gymnasium on Wednesday, March 11. There will be a private, family visitation from 3:30 p.m. until 4:30. At 4:30 the public will be allowed in for a visitation until 7 p.m. Services will begin at 7 p.m.