Thursday, May 3, 2012

Florence produces state Teacher of the Year

Ellen Meder of the Florence Morning News delivers the winner:

A Pee Dee teacher took the state’s top honor for a South Carolina educator Tuesday night.

Amy McAllister-Skinner won South Carolina’s Teacher of the Year award, which was selected by the S.C. Department of Education and presented by South Carolina Future Minds. She teaches 11th grade English at Johnsonville High School, and with only five years in the classroom under her belt, the Francis Marion University graduate is already making a mark on her students in a big way.

At a large gala in Columbia, Education Superintendent Mick Zais presented a surprised McAllister-Skinner with the award.

“At first I thought he was kidding, but then I figured that was probably not part of the plan,” McAllister-Skinner said with a signature giggle after the awards ceremony.

As part of the award, she’ll get to drive a new BMW for the next year on top of receiving $25,000. She’ll travel around the state advocating for public education, which she said she’s honored to do but that it’s still bittersweet because she’ll deeply miss her students.

When McAllister-Skinner returns to the classroom, she’ll also get a smart technologies package to integrate into her classroom, which particularly suits her because she’s known for integrating technology, like blogging or filmmaking into her lesson plans. She even Tweeted her students as soon as she won the award, with a picture of the keys that read “We got a BMW!”

She said she’ll spend the next year refuting the bad reputation South Carolina education occasionally gets, saying it’s improving all the time. She also wants to highlight and encourage the many innovative ideas Palmetto State teachers are bringing to their classrooms.

She said she was honored and humbled to get the award and said many others are just as deserving. When pressed she said it was her hands-on approach to getting involved in students’ lives as well as learning that likely set her apart.

“I care about my kids as more than just a student in my classroom, and so I’m constantly at ballgames and at all different types of things that touch their lives because I want them to know they’re not just test scores to me, they’re actual people that I want to build lasting relationships with,” McAllister-Skinner said.

By the end of the month McAllister-Skinner will also finish her master’s degree from Coastal Carolina University.

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