2023 Teacher of the Year Finalists
Spencer Quinlan - Springfield Elementary
The ability to impact young lives is what ultimately influenced Spencer Quinlan to become a teacher. She has fond memories of her own education, particularly having her own mother as her Physical Education teacher.
“I grew up in an education system with highly effective teachers and extremely
positive learning experiences,” said Quinlan. “I was taught at a very young age to respect teachers not only as individuals but for the work that they do. Only now can I truly say that I understand the length and breadth of what that means.”
Additionally, Quinlan was a nanny to four young children who she cared for through their developmental years. That unique experience showed her first-hand the impact she could have on a young person’s life.
“Watching their excitement when they learned to craft or sing along to the songs we practiced really struck me,” said Quinlan. “I was awed by how impressionable they were. Younger kids want to learn.”
Quinlan is a second-grade teacher at Springfield Elementary School where she has taught for 11 years. It has brought her a tremendous amount of joy to work with a team of colleagues that she considers family.
Chloe Spitzer - Camp Road Middle School
Camp Road Middle School Band Director Chloe Spitzer understands that community is important, especially when working with middle school students. That’s why she prioritizes a community atmosphere and welcoming environment in her band program; her students feel included and connected.
“Being in the band relies on teamwork,” said Spitzer. “Except there are no benchwarmers. Everyone is important. You rely on your peers to know their musical parts and you are working in tandem to put on the most effective performance possible.”
Spitzer impresses upon students the importance of working together for a common goal. This creates bonds among the students.
“Students wear their band shirts and can immediately make a connection with someone in the hall, even if they don’t know each other,” said Spitzer. “It’s a feeling of being on the same team.”
Spitzer almost joined her middle school’s chorus instead of the band, but with her father’s nudge, she chose to play the clarinet and fell in love with the familial atmosphere of being in a band.
Erin McGee - Wando High School
Erin McGee is in her 10th year as an educator and the foundation of her teaching philosophy is making sure she is putting the needs of students first. She began her career in a Title 1, urban school with a high rate of poverty. The emphasis at that school was to be a support system for students rather than simply pushing content.
“Assessments and standards are not everything when it comes to the business of teaching students,” said McGee. “The bigger deal is meeting kids where they are and helping them push through.”
Following in her mother’s footsteps, McGee hopes to make her mark at Wando High School by not only imparting knowledge, but by being student-centered and doing what is best for students so they can learn global-thinking skills.
Alexis Marianiello - Burke High School
Lexy Marianiello, a Burke High School Social Studies teacher feels that her greatest contribution to the teaching profession is still in progress. When she was a child, school brought her joy, because she was good at it and felt successful at almost every endeavor. Marianiello knows that many students have different experiences, and her goal is to dedicate her career to building those students up so that they feel confident in the classroom.
“The foundation of all of my lessons is a good relationship with my students,” said Marianiello. “I think all students learn better from someone they trust and respect, and especially from someone who they believe respects them. I lead my students to learn about the world around us by scaffolding their exploration as asking probing questions that force them to think about the information and data they’ve seen. As any of my students will tell you, I encourage them to ask questions of their own.”
Katie Bilsback - Mary Ford Early Learning & Family Center
Katie Bilsback of Mary Ford Early Learning & Family Center is in her third year of teaching in the Head Start program for Charleston County School District (CCSD) and works hard to create a classroom where her students receive structured learning coupled with fun. Bilsback holds high expectations to prepare her students for the rest of their schooling, but also for the rest of their lives.
“If high expectations become the norm, then they will begin to exceed even those,” said Bilsback. “By creating a positive classroom culture, my students have flourished and will continue to do so as the year progresses.”
Trish Anderson, a program specialist at Mary Ford, agrees.
“Ms. Bilsback sets the bar high for students and for herself,” said Anderson. “She understands the importance of early childhood education and her role in setting the foundation for the future success of her young scholars. Katie creates a culture where students learn through play, build strong relationships, and develop core social/emotional skills.”