GCS Celebrates American Education Week 2018 - Educators
Matthew Critell, Assistant Principal, Fisher Middle School
Matthew Critell, Assistant Principal at Fisher Middle, knows it's the little things that make a big difference in the lives of those he comes in contact with every day. “I had a student the first year we opened tell me this is the first school where I felt like I belonged.” From welcoming parents, working with community partners, supporting teachers, and making sure students feel like they belong, Mr. Critell works tirelessly to ensure the success of everyone at Fisher. Each student is important to Mr. Critell, and he makes sure they know it! “During class change there are students who will reach out to me for a high five or a hug or a ‘Hey Mr. Critell what’s up’ that is kind of neat to me because it shows the lasting impact. If they are having a bad day they know there is someone they can go to.”
“I try to push it up a little bit more, add a little something extra to the curriculum,” says STEAM lab teacher Martha Harris of Mitchell Road Elementary. Harris finds innovative ways of teaching through hands on models and lessons. Harris works closely with classroom teachers to make sure her lessons supplement the state standards and help students better comprehend difficult concepts.
“If a student feels they’re cared for in an environment I feel like they grow,” Harris says. She emphasizes the importance of making a connection with her students. Through actions such as going beyond the classroom to help students and families in need is one of the many ways Harris has proven that she does care. She assists with clothing and supplies for students in need.
To Harris her lab is not only a place for students to come and learn but also a place to get away from the stress they may face in their lives. She says that “I want them to be happy here, I want them to enjoy it and for it to be stress free.” Carrying this mentality with her every day Harris makes sure her students are not only gaining knowledge but loving every minute that they have in her class.
Harris truly embodies the “A” in STEAM. She loves art as much as science, math and technology. When the library was set to excess a large number of picture books Harris said, “We’re going to turn them into art.” She spent the summer creating two beautiful mosaics for the school’s media center. Harris enjoys watching students find books they’ve read and recognize the pictures on the library wall. These little things are what define Harris as innovative, imaginative and caring.
Mauldin Elementary Administrative Assistant Hamilton Parks knows how important the little details are in making sure school runs smoothly for teachers, parents, and students. “I always say happy teachers make happy students so whatever I can do to support the teachers and empower them to make fun engaging lessons ends up helping out kids and that pays out in a big way.” From little waves in the hallway to spending the necessary time to support teachers, Mr. Parks is committed to doing what it takes to make sure everyone at Mauldin Elementary a success! “It all boils down to making sure kids are able to learn in the best environment possible, he says.”
Greer High's "Intro to Manufacturing" teacher Rick Schwartz knows it's little things that make a big difference when helping put students on a career path. Mr. Schwartz uses his course to introduce students to various fields of manufacturing, with hands on courses that prepare students for a career after high school. “You know we are fighting a stereotype,” he says. “You bring up manufacturing and a lot of people bring up cotton mills but it has totally changed in the last twenty years.” Mr. Schwartz has started a Career Expo at Greer that helps introduce students to companies in the Upstate that work and hire in the manufacturing students. Connecting students to potential employers is a little thing that does make a huge difference! “Any hands on activity you can give the kids it is all good. In ninth grade we bring the kids in and build bridges and rockets and have fun. The ones who are serious about manufacturing enroll in our tenth grade course which is mostly machine tool, welding and mechatronics. We invite industry out here to connect with these kids to let them know the jobs that are out there,” Schwartz says.
“I encourage everyone let’s not forget that even the small acts of kindness and generosity can make a substantial impression on our students. Let’s inspire them, support them, let's help them prepare for their dreams. In order to do this we have to listen to our students. We have to find out what makes them unique and what helps them achieve,” says Travelers Rest High School teacher Shelley Smith.
Serving as Greenville County Schools Teacher of the Year for 2018-2019, Smith gets to know her students as individuals. Her “little things” are leaving notes of encouragement on a student’s desk. “Sometimes that meaningful adult connection and positive reinforcement is the difference between overcoming adversity and accepting failure as the outcome.”