Plain Elementary’s Suzanne Billings Named GCS Teacher of the Year
Greenville County Schools Superintendent Dr. Burke Royster announced the selection of Suzanne Billings, a fourth grade teacher at Plain Elementary School, the 2017-18 Greenville County Teacher of the Year. Also announced were first runner-up Anjosia Ellerbe, business education teacher at Wade Hampton High; second runner-up Erin Rigot, a communications teacher at League Middle Academy, and third runner-up Ashley Jenkins, a tenth grade world history teacher at Woodmont High School.
Finalists are Scott Buhr, Physics and Earth Science, Hillcrest High School; Jeremy Bowen, Mathematics, J. L. Mann High Academy; David Dejesa, Social Studies/Speech & Debate, Riverside High School; Chancey Greco, Sixth Grade English Language Arts, Greenville Middle Academy; Lauren Long, Eighth Grade English, Hillcrest Middle School; and Thomas McAuliff, Third Grade, Taylors Elementary School.
Suzanne Billings, Fourth Grade, Plain Elementary
Plain Elementary fourth grade teacher Suzanne Billings recognizes how her father’s coaching led her to become a teacher. “Having my dad as my basketball and softball coach allowed me to see how he implemented mentoring skills in sports. He focused on not just improving physical skills, but developing both character and self-confidence,” she said.
Later, she realized the breadth of his influence when she discovered that one of her teammates wrote her college essay about Billings’ father. “She said my dad made the most significant impact on her personal development,” said Billings. “I knew I wanted to be like my dad and inspire others to achieve their best and positively impact their personal growth and success.”
Today, this 19-year educator roots her teaching practices in creating a positive, inclusive classroom community. “I ensure each student views him or herself as a speaker, listener, teacher, and supporter. This community team environment instills ownership of learning and allows each student’s talents and abilities to shine,” she explained.
Her daily mantra, Imagine. Create. Inspire, is a solid method for developing successful, inquisitive learners. “Teaching is imagining the purpose of the knowledge, creating an understanding and desire to utilize this new information, and then applying and inspiring uses for new learning,” she said. “My reward in teaching is observing students who imagine, create, and inspire for themselves, not just for a teacher or parent.”
Billings says she encourages students to make connections between the classroom and the real world to support her goal of having students believe in the benefits of education, plan for obtaining a diploma, aspire to become college-bound, and be ready for their dream career.
When she’s not teaching fourth graders, Mrs. Billings provides professional development opportunities for her peers. She has served as a literacy mentor for elementary intermediate grades, a technology presenter at the Upstate Technology Conference, and a mentor teacher for educators.
Suzanne Billings holds a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education for Students with Learning Disabilities and/or Emotional Handicaps from Furman University and a Master’s degree in Elementary School Guidance Counseling from Clemson University.
First Runner-up - Anjosia Ellerbe, Business Education, Wade Hampton High
“Regardless of the external situations influencing my students, when they come into my class they know that their teacher-mom is cheering them on and working with them on their level to ensure success. No two students are identical and each needs something different from me to get the most out of each business class. By the end of the semester, the students jokingly say that I am their school mom, and I accept that role with pride.”
Second Runner-up - Erin Rigot, Sixth Grade ELA/Communications, League Middle Academy
“The most satisfying part of being a middle school teacher is the ability to create strong relationships with my students. I firmly believe that these crucial years leave a lasting positive or negative impression on each student. My students are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to become. They rely on me for guidance, affirmation, and reassurance as they navigate the pre-teen years. Being able to flip between counselor and teacher is one of the most important parts of what I do.”
Third Runner-up - Ashley Jenkins, Social Studies/World History, Woodmont High
“Educating the whole child, making the complicated simple, and promoting kindness are the key traits of my daily teaching. By reaching a student through his or her interests, finding a way to make students enjoy success, modeling what I preach, and supporting students by attending their extra-curricular events, I successfully build lasting relationships that assist in hooking students into the content I teach.”
- Scott Buhr, Physics and Earth Science, Hillcrest High School
- Jeremy Bowen, Mathematics, J. L. Mann High Academy
- David Dejesa, Social Studies/Speech & Debate, Riverside High School
- Chancey Greco, Sixth Grade English Language Arts, Greenville Middle Academy
- Lauren Long, Eighth Grade English, Hillcrest Middle School
- Thomas McAuliff, Third Grade, Taylors Elementary School
School Teachers of the Year
The process of selecting the ten finalists began last fall when schools and centers selected their individual Teachers of the Year. Applications were reviewed by a Screening Committee. Five judges then selected the Top Ten finalists and the District Teacher of the Year.
How Are the Finalists Chosen?
Each Top Ten candidate for Greenville County Teacher of the Year is judged on the nine areas included on the application form, a classroom visit, and an interview.
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.
The members of the Selection Committee were Lillie Lewis, Southern Wesleyan University; Kelly Nalley, former Greenville County Schools and South Carolina Teacher of the Year; Dr. Betty McConaghy, retired school administrator; Scott Powell, Rotary Club of Greenville; and Bill Tyler, Chick-fil-A.
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