For the 2012-2013 Teachers of the Year at Scotland County’s schools, who were recognized with a reception on Monday, education is about something more than their students’ mastery of academic subjects.
Each school’s Teacher of the Year, chosen on the school level by their fellow teachers, submitted a personal statement and classroom video along with their peer recommendations. The winner was chosen by a selection panel including St. Andrews education professor Dr. Rona Leach McLeod and Amber Watkins, an assistant principal at Scotland High School and the district’s most recent regional Teacher of the Year.
“The applications were off the charts in terms of qualifications,” said McLeod. “In terms of teaching, the techniques that we saw in the classroom were just tremendous.”
Of the 11 teachers forwarded to the panel for consideration, Melissa Creed, a second-grade teacher at Covington Street Elementary School, was selected as the winner.
“She is the epitome of an honorable, loving teacher who really holds her students to a high standard and everything she does she does very, very well,” said Covington Street Principal Sandra Wilcher. “She’s very dedicated to her profession.
Creed, a National Board Certified teacher who has taught the elementary grades in Scotland County for nine years, hoped that her award would be an inspiration to her students.
“It’s a total shock and it’s such an honor to be here,” she said. “I told my kids on the first day of school that there’s one word that I never, ever want to hear them say: can’t. I never want to hear them say the word can’t. And then I had my teachable moment with the contractions, but then we go back and I say within the word can’t, there is one word that you can say: can. That is the only word I want to hear come out of their mouths when they’re in trouble. So I’m going to go back to them tomorrow, and I’m going to say I can.”
Creed will move forward for consideration as Sandhills/South Central regional Teacher of the Year.
For her team-oriented approach to teaching calculus and algebra, Elizabeth Williams was selected from over 100 Scotland High teachers as that school’s teacher of the year.
“When you go by Elizabeth’s room, they’re always having fun, and that’s pretty hard to say for every high school classroom,” said Scotland High Principal Beth Ammons. “They are always engaged, she has them in collaborative group work on a daily basis, and you can just tell that that’s a special atmosphere and a special relationship between teacher and student. Nobody feels intimidated; they get in there and they go to work and she makes it fun for the kids.”
At the other end of the educational spectrum, kindergarten teacher Lindsey Spangler was Pate-Gardner Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year.
“This is my ninth year teaching, so I was very shocked when I was nominated; I don’t think people know, sometimes, how hard kindergarten is,” said Spangler. “You get them in and you really start from scratch. You build them up and they learn so much throughout the year that it’s amazing, letting them go, that they’re reading and they’re writing sentences. It’s a lot of hard work and I love it.”
Several of the teachers were nominated for their leadership of their peers as much as their ability to teach children.
“She is always there and I know that every decision she makes and everything she does in the classroom is for the betterment of her kids,” Carver Middle School Principal Robert Guzman said of Me’Lisa Butler, Carver’s Teacher of the Year. “And, she may not realize it, but it’s also for the betterment of the teachers and the rest of us able to interact with her on a daily basis.”
Butler teaches sixth grade math at Carver.
With new curricula implemented in all grade levels statewide, this year has provided many opportunities for teachers to demonstrate innovation and creativity. Seventh grade language arts and social studies teacher Christine Belzic of Spring Hill Middle School did just that, earning Teacher of the Year honors at her school.
“I wish you had an opportunity to see the flow chart that she created with the new Essential Standards for social studies, because she couldn’t wrap her head around it and she had to help everybody else,” said Spring Hill Principal Myra Holloway. “So there’s this flowchart, and I looked at it and I tried to follow it a little bit and I thought ‘as long as she knows what it is.’ But they’ve taken that and they’ve run with it, so she truly, truly is a teacher’s teacher. She’s one who shares all that she has with others.”
Washington Park Principal Billy Hardy presented similar sentiments about his own teacher of the year, second-grade teacher Tracy Singletary.
“Tracy is the leader that you never know is leading - she just always does it,” he said. “When something comes up and you go by her room, she gives you an honest opinion- not on how it’s going to affect the adults, but on what is good for the children. They’re first in everything she does.”
Other school level teachers of the year were fifth grade teacher Laura Fedak of Laurel Hill Elementary, third grade teacher Ashley Locklear of North Laurinburg Elementary, third grade teacher Jenna Caywood of South Scotland Elementary, and eighth grade science teacher Jeremy Buie of Sycamore Lane Middle School.
These 11 are representative of a capable and qualified teaching population, said Deberry-Spaine.
“I was surprised to be nominated because there are so many good teachers at IEJ, and I was just honored to be among them.”