Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011

Taunja Pool, Fifth Grade Teacher at Summit Drive Elementary, Named Greenville County Schools Teacher of the Year

Taunja Pool - Greenville County Teacher of the Year - Click to enlarge.Greenville County Schools Superintendent Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher today announced the selection of Taunja Pool, a fifth grade teacher at Summit Drive Elementary School, the 2011-12 Greenville County Teacher of the Year.

Sandra Brooks, an English teacher at Wade Hampton High School, was named first runner-up; Amanda Powell Sopko, a fifth grade teacher at Duncan Chapel Elementary School, was named second runner-up; and Angela Rex, strings teacher at Bryson Middle School was named third runner-up.

Six other finalists were named in this year’s program that exemplifies the “best of the best” in Greenville County Schools. They are: Tonya Benjamin, ESOL, Carolina High School and Academy; Leigh Burman, English, Greenville Sr. High Academy; Brooke Poe, first grade, Paris Elementary; Heathe Provost, seventh grade science, League Academy; Linda Reynolds, English, Sterling School; and Robin Upshall, career preparation, Woodmont High.

2011-12 Greenville County Teacher of the Year

  • Taunja Pool, Fifth Grade, Summit Drive Elementary
  • Years of Teaching Experience - 13
  • Experience in Greenville County Schools - 6
  • Education – BS, Lander University; MA, Lesley University; Master’s Plus 30, Converse College
  • Earned National Board Certification in 2005

Taunja Pool - Greenville County Teacher of the Year - Click to enlarge.Seeing Things from a Different Perspective

Taunja Pool, a fifth grade teacher at Summit Drive Elementary, has come a long way since she was a student in primary and secondary school.  She attended 11 schools (including three different sixth grade classes) in 12 years. The frequent moves left gaps in her education, resulting in the need for remedial instruction in reading and math.

“These gaps, or disconnects, in my education are why I became a teacher. I know there are students who have the same feelings of disconnect I had. Each day as a teacher, I do all that I can to fill in the gaps and help those students make the connections,” said Taunja Pool, who has been named the 2011-12 Greenville County Schools Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Pool earned her bachelor’s degree from Lander University, a master’s degree from Lesley University in Massachusetts, and a master’s plus 30 from Converse College. In 2005 she earned the prestigious accomplishment of becoming National Board Certified.

Taunja believes she has had many successful years in teaching because she can see things from a different perspective.  “I can put myself into the struggling students’ shoes because I have walked a mile or two in a similar pair,” she said.

Her classroom is calm and organized, where students treat each other with respect as they work in a ‘community’ atmosphere. Taunja said, “Instead of desks, we have tables to promote collaborative group work where children take an active role. Understanding my students’ strengths and weaknesses and providing an atmosphere that fosters achievement allows them to be successful.”

Mrs. Pool recalls many stories about the students with whom she has had great success. “Matthew, who was quite capable, was just not interested in reading books. He only wanted to read technical handbooks about computers.  After getting to know him, his interests, and his ability level, I introduced him to the world of Lemony Snicket, the author of the Series of Unfortunate Events. After only a month he was reading the fifth book in the series,” she said.

She says the use of best practices have been her faithful classroom companions. “There has not been a year in my career that early assessment, analyzing data, and differentiating instruction have not been successful techniques. Over the years I have learned new and better ways of applying these strategies, making me a more proficient teacher.”

Congratulations, Taunja Pool, 2011-12 Greenville County Schools Teacher of the Year!

Teachers of the Year Recognized by Local Businesses
The announcement naming Taunja Pool the 2011-12 Greenville County Teacher of the Year was made August 12 during a Teacher of the Year breakfast.  Special awards and prizes were provided for the top Greenville County teacher and other honorees.

Emerging Teachers of the Year

  • Greenville Federal Credit Union - $500 for Teachers’ Schools, $500 for Teachers; Crystal Award

All Teachers of the Year

  • Plaque (Awarded in August)
  • Bank of Travelers Rest – Embroidered Tote Bag (Awarded in May)

Top Ten Finalists

  • Cowart Awards - Engraved Acrylics
  • Eplee & Associates – Book Store Gift Certificates
  • Expressions Unlimited –Flowers for Finalists and Teacher of the Year
  • Herff Jones Company – Teacher of the Year Paperweights
  • Sam’s Club - Goody Bag of School Supplies 

Runners Up

  • Greenville Rotary Club – Cash Awards

Teacher of the Year

  • Cowart Awards – Engraved Acrylic
  • Greenville Journal - $200 Dinner Gift Certificate
  • Greenville News – One-Year Subscription
  • Greenville Rotary Club – Cash Award
  • Herff Jones Company – Special Teacher of the Year Gold Pin 
  • Michelin North America – Set of 4 Michelin Tires
  • Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company - $500
  • Sam’s Club - $1,000 Grant and a Banner
  • Soby’s – Dinner for Two

Selecting “The Best of the Best”
The process of selecting “the best of the best” began last fall when schools and centers chose their individual Teachers of the Year. These teachers submitted applications. Five judges then selected the Top Ten finalists and the District Teacher of the Year.
Judges were:  Dr. Temi Bidjerano, Furman University; Mr. Herb Johnson, Michelin North America; Dr. Betty McConaghy, retired school administrator; Mrs. Fanya Paouris, former District and State Teacher of the Year; and Mr. Tobin Wolverton, The Rotary Club of Greenville.

How Are Finalists Chosen?
Each Top Ten candidate for Greenville County Teacher of the Year is judged on nine areas including those on his or her application form, a classroom visit, and an oral review.

In the classroom, judges observe the teacher’s command of subject matter, classroom environment, communication skills, enthusiasm, creativity, and classroom management skills. During the interview, candidates are judged on his or her use of effective communication skills, organization of response, knowledge and command of subject matter, and substance and relevance of response.
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