Teachers in our community do not receive enough praise. They spend countless hours, inside and outside of the classroom, teaching our children not only educational practices but the fundamentals of life as well. Since we are all gearing up for another school year, we thought we’d help shine some light on a few of these wonderful educational influencers. From teachers to principals to superintendents, their guidance is influential in the lives of our children. Read below to learn some interesting facts about who’s hanging out with our children on a daily basis!
Weston Nunn, AP European History Teacher, Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School
What are some traditions you have for the first day of school? On the first day of school I like to really dress up. During the year I wear a shirt and tie every day, but I really like to set a special tone on day one. So I make sure that I have a fresh hair cut, that my shoes are polished, and that I accessorize a blazer or suit jacket with a pocket square or lapel rose to really make an impact.
What is one thing your students would be surprised to know about you? My students are surprised that I know more about pop culture than they think I do, and that I’m not just a nerd who listens to Handel, Mozart, or Stravinsky. For example, recently while conducting a summer college essay writing workshop, I gave my students a choice of background music: classical, jazz, or German death metal. They chose the latter, and when I immediately told them the artist we’d be listening to and then pulled the music up on YouTube, they were stunned (and maybe a little afraid).
Susanne Elvington, Reading Recovery Teacher Leader, Marion County School District
Who inspired you to be a teacher? As a little girl, I always dreamed of being a teacher, just like my mom and my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Ellen Davis. They both fostered within me the desire to learn and explore new things. Both of these ladies have helped me become the teacher that I am today.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most rewarding part of my job is watching my first graders grow into strategic, enthusiastic, and engaged readers and writers.
What is one thing your students would be surprised to know about you? 36 years ago I was a first-grader just like them and attended the same school that they attend now – Easterling Primary School.
Brittany Curtis, Grades 1-5, Special Education, Thornwell School for the Arts, Hartsville
What are some traditions you have for the first day of school? I always like to start the year with a project that signifies we’re all a team. Sometimes we make a puzzle or do a group goal-setting activity. It’s fun getting to know them and help them get to know each other.
How do you spend your summer breaks? I spend summer break traveling with my family. I love having my daughter home and actually getting things done around the house that I never get time for otherwise! And of course, I plan for the new school year!
What is one thing your students would be surprised to know about you? I was in the Young Singers of Darlington and we were invited to sing at Disney World. When we were there I came down with the chickenpox and had been flown back home by myself.
Sonya Graves, Principal, Lucy T. Davis Elementary School, Florence
What inspired you to become a teacher, prior to being a principal? I had a wonderful fifth-grade teacher who pushed me beyond my limits! I also participated in the Teacher Cadet program when I was in high school. This experience confirmed my passion for witnessing academic, social and emotional growth for all students!
What advice do you have for new teachers? Building relationships is key! Students will work harder for you if they trust you and feel loved. Also, always remember “why” you chose this profession!
What is one thing your students would be surprised to know about you? I enjoy writing poetry in my free time! I actually had a poem published years ago!
Danielle Reames, 3k-5k, Speech-Language Therapy, Southside Early Childhood Center, Hartsville
What advice do you have for new teachers? First-year is tough–But so are you! Take chances and give it your all! Lastly, relax and make it fun.
What is one thing your students would be surprised to know about you? I love a good 5 a.m. workout to jump start my day and I enjoy playing golf.
What are you most looking forward to this school year? Seeing the growth in my little learners. Helping a child to communicate whether it be verbally, through signs, pictures, or using a communication device is the greatest feeling in the world! Can’t wait to see all of my sweet friends and start working on mastering their speech and language goals!
Mandy Hicks, Early Childhood Development, Delmae Heights Elementary
What inspired you to become a teacher? My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Simmons, made a positive impact on my life. She not only was a great teacher academically, she personally invested in me and other students. I knew I wanted to have the same effect on others.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The most challenging part of my job is not being able to change the circumstances for students. It is very difficult watching children not get the support they need.
What is one thing your students would be surprised to know about you?
My students would be surprised to know that I enjoy deer hunting. My dad took me out for my first dog drive a couple of years ago with Sportsman Hunting Club and I loved it.
Kandace Bethea, Superintendent, Marion County School District
As Superintendent, what is your main focus at the job? As superintendent, my main focus is to ensure that every child is exposed to high-quality teaching and learning experiences as we strive to prepare them to become college, career, and citizenship ready.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most rewarding part of my job is when we, as educators, see the impact of our meaningful work being evidenced through students’ academic and personal successes!
What advice do you have for new teachers? My advice for new teachers can be communicated using 3-Ps: Have a PASSION for your work; Be PURPOSEFUL in building positive relationships with students; and PLAN for success!
Nicole Snipes, 3rd Grade Teacher, Carver Elementary Magnet School, Florence
What inspired you to become a teacher? I had two teachers who inspired me to become a teacher! My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Bateman, and my middle school band director, Mr. Jones.
What are some traditions you have for the first day of school? I always spend the first day getting to know my students and working on building my classroom community! A good strong classroom community is the key for a successful year!
How do you spend your summer breaks? I spend my summer breaks with my son, Joseph, and daughter, Ella! We enjoy camping in our camper!
Ryan Milling, Assistant Principal, Lake City High School
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most rewarding part of my job is watching students gain skills that will allow them to be successful in college or the world of work. At the high school level that is when a student earns a career certification and/or applies that to a job that they will have once leaving high school. At the high school level, it’s also when high schoolers graduate and move on to the next chapter of their lives and/or put in the hard work to pass a grade or overcome some of life’s challenges. I would say that the last sentence applies to my work with elementary students also.
What advice do you have for new teachers? Always remember why you decided to get into the profession. A lot of times our efforts will have lasting impacts and those impacts may not be seen until years down the road. New teachers should find mentors immediately, a good group of individuals to plan with and to bounce ideas off of and to never stop believing in themselves and to not be afraid to grow.
What is one thing your students would be surprised to know about you? What they are most surprised about is that I am a fraternal twin. On another note, I often share my failures with my students. I want them to learn resilience and see it in real people. They still get excited when they see me in the grocery store.
What inspired you to become a teacher? I started out wanting to go into business or engineering but something was always calling me to a purpose. I sought out mentors and people that I trusted for feedback. Most of those people that I relied on were educators themselves. So I began my journey on an inquiry into a field like social work and criminal justice but decided that education was the best fit.