Thursday, April 18, 2013
Each of the 41 public schools in the Berkeley County School District has a teacher of the year, but only one gets to carry the honor for the entire district.
Berkeley Elementary School teacher Stephanie Wallace was named 2013 BCSD teacher of the year at a ceremony Friday morning at Trident Technical College in North Charleston.
Wallace has wanted to teach as long as she could remember. From the time she was playing with baby dolls, to the time she spent student teaching at a high school, when she was told she was born to teach and has a gift that should not be wasted. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she said of her chosen profession.
Wallace said she wasn’t expecting to be named 2013 teacher of the year and was in shock in the moments following the announcement.
She said she knows she’s making a difference in a student’s life when she sees a child excited about learning. She enjoys seeing unmotivated children make transformations over a year or two and develop a different attitude of learning.
Wallace has been a teacher for eight years at BES, where for the past seven years she’s taught an integrated multi-age first and second grade class. Her classroom methods are similar to the Montessori philosophy, as students take on a cooperative leadership role.
“It’s such a family atmosphere,” she said. “It’s like losing family members when they go off (to third grade). Then we get to build those relationships again.”
Wallace was born and raised in Chapel Hill, N.C. and has an undergraduate and Master’s degree from the College of Charleston. She has lived in Summerville for the past seven years.
“I believe in teaching to students’ interests, not just from a textbook or curriculum,” she said. “I’m very much into project-based learning. It’s an integrated approach that takes a theme that will encompass all our standards.
“That’s when I see students get excited about learning. I can see students meet their interests and needs and make it purposeful and meaningful for each of them.”
She enjoys seeing her students every day and watching their excitement and curiosity as the proverbial light bulbs go off over their heads.
“I’m inspired when I collaborate with other teachers and gain new ideas from their perspective,” she said. “Collaboration among students and colleagues is so important so we can embrace our diversity and learn and grow from one another.
“I hope I can inspire as many students and advocate for as many students and teachers as possible.”
Wallace is not afraid to try different methods: “I’m all about innovative non-traditional ways to reach students. My goal every day is for every one of our children to leave feeling success on some level to make school their safe and happy place.
“Character education is a huge thing for me.”
Her hobbies include walks on the beach, reading and gardening.
“I enjoy the arts,” she said. “I love going to plays and concerts. Just trying to immerse myself in the arts and the outdoors.”
Guest speakers at Friday’s ceremony were Berkeley Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Good, Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter, TTC President Mary Thornley, BCSD Deputy Superintendent Archie Franchini and 2012 teacher of the year Michael Petry.
“Our end product is not a machine – they’re humans with moving parts,” Petry said.
Petry, who teaches at Cane Bay High School, shared the story of a student who brought a pistol, Taser and bowie knife to school and was held accountable for his actions by being dismissed from school. But Petry said he and the district did not give up on the student.
“The student called to let me know he applied for college and was accepted,” Petry said. “He thanked me for not giving up on him. He moved on. He did not become a statistic. All it takes for bad things to happen is for good people to do nothing.”
Each school’s teacher of the year was honored and shook hands with district employees and elected officials.
The other two finalists were Hanahan Elementary School’s Heather Bradshaw and Stratford High School’s Meg Ward.