Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2016

American Education Week - Educator Appreciation Day

This is My Mission

Vanessa AndersonVanessa Anderson, Fourth Grade Single-Gender - Cherrydale Elementary

When you walk into Vanessa Anderson’s fourth grade classroom at Cherrydale Elementary, you’re greeted with a handshake and a cordial welcome from a room full of boys.

Anderson teaches all boys in a single-gender class, and she loves her job. “I drive from Spartanburg at 5:30 in the morning so I can be there for them,” she said. “I love seeing their faces when they’re learning. I love the fact that my parents can get in touch with me and help them out. It’s more than just teaching for me. This is my mission in life.”

As they move from individualized work to group work, students get out of their seats and dance, sing, and play games. “They have so much energy. They can’t stay on one task for more than 20 minutes,” explained Anderson. “I always have an activity to keep them engaged. We might be throwing the football. You may see them running around the room. I am able to keep them engaged by allowing them to exert energy while they learn.”

Anderson loves what she does and the children she teaches. “If I can teach them something about life, then I think I’ve done my job,” she said.

A Principal’s Influence

Michael DelaneyMichael Delaney, Principal, Carolina High and Academy

When you meet Michael Delaney, you might think he has spent much more than 12 years in education. During that time, he’s moved from math teacher to assistant principal to Freshman Academy coordinator to principal, a position he’s held for six years at Carolina High and Academy.

Delaney arrives each day before anyone else so he can be out in the school when students and teachers arrive. “My job varies from meeting with students and teachers, to observing classrooms, to checking grades, to trying to motivate teachers and students to perform, and even being a cheerleader and support system at times," he said.

Delaney greets every student with a handshake or fist bump. "I make sure they are okay, make sure they are ready for a great day. If they look like they are off a little bit, I pull them aside and have a conversation." Delaney makes a point to know every student’s name and something about them.

“As principal, I understand that basically I'm on stage every day. Everybody is looking to see what I do, why I do it, how I interact, am I going to lose my temper, or am I going to keep my temper, am I going to laugh or cry? Everyone in the organization take their cue from what the principal does."

Never Losing Sight

Emily GerardEmily Gerard, Assistant Principal, Paris Elementary

As an assistant principal, no day is the same, said Paris Elementary’s Emily Gerard. “One thing I love about my job is that I’m one of the first individuals to greet our buses in the morning. That’s over 200 children, including our breakfast friends, and I am helping them set the tone for the day,” said Gerard. “I know what’s it’s like to be a classroom teacher and have students who come in that might be upset, that no one has had a chance to talk to yet.”

Although she’s been an assistant principal for five years, Gerard has not forgotten her roots. “When I made the transition into administration, I wanted to make sure I did not lose sight of what it’s like as a teacher. I think we have a close-knit community that is built on respect. Teachers know they can come to me with questions and concerns. I let them know I am true to my word.”

Gerard is thrilled to transfer her classroom skills to her role as assistant principal. “Instead of having a classroom, I have 640 students that I get to nurture and watch grow into young adults,” she said.

Student-Centered Strategies

Stephanie ReesStephanie Rees, Instructional Coach, Travelers Rest High

Travelers Rest High Instructional Coach Stephanie Rees says disciplinary literacy is a topic very close to her heart. As a former English teacher, she understands that the way a science teacher reads is different from the way an English teacher reads. “It’s my role to model the best practices so teachers can see what works from their perspective as well as a student’s perspective,” she explained.

Rees meets with teachers once a month to cover broad areas such as reading or writing. “I like to bring teachers together as a department to work on new strategies,” said Rees. “Hopefully I’m bringing something to the table that is useful to the teacher and the students.”

A favorite part of her day is spending time in classrooms to see how instructional strategies are implemented by teachers and interpreted by students. “I like to see how it’s working and to be the one who does something fun with students. They know when I walk through the door they know they’re going to try something new,” she said.

A key component to Rees’ success is that she’s introducing student-centered strategies. “I try to make it something the teachers can apply directly to their classroom so it won’t take a lot of additional planning on their part,” explained Rees.

Holding Students Accountable

Joshua TillmanJoshua Tillman, Band Director, Southside High Academy

He’s young, energetic, and maybe a little sleep-deprived from caring for his new baby. As a fourth-year teacher, Southside High Band Director Joshua Tillman makes a big difference in the lives of his students.

“I feel like I'm an uncle figure for my students. I hold them accountable for their actions, and yet I can still relate to them. They know my expectations from the beginning. I let them know I want them to be here and to continue their education,” he said.

He finds joy every day as he shares his knowledge and love of music with his students. “I like to see them progress as musicians. I try to share my passion for music and get them motivated to continue their music education. The great thing is, since we are a smaller band, I can do a lot of one-on-one with students. It helps me get to know the students better.”

Tillman encourages middle school students to consider joining the band program at Southside. “I'm starting to hear that parents are coming to Southside for the band, which is really cool. We are doing good things, and our name is getting out there in the community,” he said.

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