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Unsung Educator of the Week

The "Unsung Educator of the Week" is a weekly honor given to a CCSD educator. The winner is nominated by a peer because of their determination to go above and beyond for our students. The winner for the week is published each Friday in the CCSD All Staff newsletter.

CCSD employees may submit nominees via this link or by emailing a name, description, and photo to stephen_wyatt@charleston.k12.sc.us

ARCHIVES: Unsung Educator 2019-2020

March 6

Jennifer Grayson, English Teacher
Academic Magnet

"Mrs. Grayson is a seasoned educator who motivates students to soar! Not only does Jen work tirelessly for students, but she also brings to the classroom love, compassion, and a beaming smile every day.

Many students, if asked, would say that seeing Ms. Grayson is the best part of their day. She is always there with a kind ear to listen to. She serves her students in all capacities, whether it's creating engaging lessons that challenge them to grow, never saying "no" to writing a recommendation letter (even if she already said yes to over 15 students), to planning and coordinating class trips where she willingly jumps into an inflatable kayak to show students what it means to face their fears. And students and faculty alike are lucky on the days that she brings us delicious baked goods or her scrumptious shrimp dip as a treat.
Mrs. Grayson moved to Charleston after serving students in NYC for over a decade, and New York's loss was Charleston's gain. She truly encompasses what it means to be an educator and we are lucky to have her!--nominated by a colleague

February 26

Sylvia Wright, AVID Teacher
Early College High School

Mrs. Wright works in the AVID program at ECHS. She arrives at school well ahead of the required time in order to prepare for the students. Her tireless dedication to her students is evident in the classroom as she supports students with tutorials (TRLs), which allow students to collaborate with peers to increase understanding of any high school content area. She helps students with organizational skill-building in order to offer them the maximum possible success in high school and college courses. Going above and beyond for her students, Mrs. Wright has established a Saturday school program designed to support students who are struggling to succeed. In addition to academics, Mrs. Wright cares for her students' emotional and social welfare. Her students talk about how influential she has been in helping them with the skills they needed to make friends at school. Mrs. Wright's students are the very heart of her work!--nominated by a colleague

February 19

Jason Sims, Assistant Principal
Laurel Hill Primary School

"Jason is a leader who is dedicated to ensuring that the opportunities afforded to our youngest learners truly align with the SC Early Learning Standards as well as the National Association for the Education of Young Children standards. He spearheads our school's accreditation through NAEYC and works with teachers to create an alignment that is developmentally appropriate. He can often be found visiting classrooms, playing with students on the playground, encouraging students to take that first step out of their car in the morning, or mentoring students who just need some guidance.

He takes time out of his day to play basketball with a child who has met his goals in class, welcomes a reader to his office who has "leveled up" and wants to share their progress, and sends pictures to parents who just want to know their child is doing well. His passion for education doesn't stop with his students. Each week, he takes to time to encourage and inspire educators with his "Thursday Thoughts". These powerful messages relate to his personal experiences and challenge his readers to find hope, perseverance, and strength to embrace any challenge they might be facing within their classroom or their own personal life.

Each day that Jason steps onto campus, it is clear that students are the Heart of his work." --nominated by a colleague

February 12

Lisa Williams, Special Education
Ashley River Creative Arts

Mrs. Williams far exceeds the role of a special needs educator. Every day, she selflessly gives her time, love, and support to meet the needs of her diverse group of learners. Mrs. Williams is extremely knowledgeable in her field, making essential accommodations and adaptions to her lessons and activities to make sure each student feels included and celebrated. She works hard daily to establish a loving yet professional rapport with her students and their families. Her students adore and trust her.

Mrs. Williams is a natural team leader. She guides her teaching team effortlessly making sure each member is provided with the necessary tools to provide a well-rounded level of care and education to her students. Mrs. Williams challenges her students and staff to reach their full potential. She collaborates well with the crucial team of outside support staff (PT, OT, SP, and other services) to ensure her students receive services to provide them with numerous opportunities to reach their goals, improve on their strengths, and exceed their potentials. As a mother of three young sons, she still manages time to do home visits for her students as well as mentor student teachers and staff furthering their education.

February 5

Debra Kerness, West Ashley area
Social Worker with Department of Alternative Programs and Services

"Debra is a star where every she is placed. she began her career in the North Area school and is now apart of the West Ashley community as the district social worker. She goes above and beyond to support all schools. She never skips a beat. All school families and staff are so appreciative of her wealth of knowledge and drive to support all. anything we need she will find it or find someone else who can. I have been fortunate enough to work with her in several capacities throughout Charleston county schools and she never gets the recognition she deserves. We can all only hope to be as great as she is."

 

January 29
Lauren Sailor, Liberty Hill Academy
Nurse

"Nurse Lauren Sailor, is a gift to the Liberty Hill Academy family.  Her nurturing and charismatic spirit is contagious and refreshing.  Nurse Sailor hears of a need and springs into action on behalf of our families.  She arranged for an overdue dental appointment for a student who came to school daily with dental pain.  She even secured the necessary transportation. 

Nurse Sailor spent time and energy requesting a student’s old medical record in an effort for the family to follow up with a Specialist. On a daily basis, Nurse Sailor is greeting students at check in and offering to spend time with students that just need a break throughout the day.  Thank you Nurse Sailor for being positive support to our Liberty Hill Academy staff, students and their families."

January 22
Caitlin Bowden, Hursey Montessori School
Music Teacher

"Caitlin has been the music teacher at Hursey Montessori for the past three years. She is a talented teacher and uses innovative resources to enhance student learning. While at Hursey Montessori, Ms. Bowden has taken advantage of teacher tools such as grants and crowdfunding to receive over $30,000 worth of resources for her students. These resources run the gamut from acoustic sound panels to musical instruments - including a theremin.
 
Ms. Bowden also inspires her colleagues to change what's possible. She recently assisted the school garden teacher to apply for and win a grant from the American Heart Association, she encouraged fellow teachers to request resources through DonorsChoose.org, and she shares her knowledge with colleagues throughout the district. This fall, Ms. Bowden led a workshop for induction teachers about crowdfunding websites for educators.
 
Ms. Bowden shares her passions with students and colleagues. She is generous with her time and talents. She is a shining light even during uncertain times."
 
January 15
Caffey Mccarty (Lead School Counselor)
Morningside Middle School
 
"Caffey Mccarty is determined and continues to show she goes beyond what is required of her to make sure students and staff are happy. Morningside has been inviting scholars into the building to engage in learning and it has been because of Caffey and the many hours she has spent with her co-counselor changing schedules, accommodating students and families, going on home visits to families to make sure of why students have not shown up on zooms or in-person and helping all of our families (including grandparents, etc.) utilize their technology for distance learning.
 
Mrs. McCarty is an unsung hero for many reasons as she helps to transform the lives of Mustang scholars and families making sure they know what’s available to them and partners with every staff and administrator to make sure Morningside Middle School exhibits the very best MUSTANG PRIDE there is to give. Mrs. McCarty shows that students are the heart of our work. She is Morningside’s SHERO and has been for the past 18 years.

January 8
James Felluca, Daniel Jenkins Academy
Guidance Counselor 

"Mr. Felluca goes above and beyond for the students at Daniel Jenkins Academy. He has dedicated the last 7 years to this school and exemplifies "Student's are the Heart of Our Work." He wears many more hats than just "guidance counselor" and is respected and appreciated by all of the students and staff. His positive attitude is contagious and makes students and staff look forward to coming into the building every day." -- nominated by a colleague

 

December 11
Sharon Holmes, C.E. Williams Middle
Special Education EMD & Multi-Categorical Classroom Assistant

 
"In the Special Education Multi-Categorical Classroom, students display an array of learning differences and Sharon Holmes is always appropriately prepared for anything and everything she might encounter.
 
Two words that describe Sharon Holmes are PATIENT and COMPASSIONATE. She takes the time to teach a student while allowing them the opportunity to fail several times in a task knowing that it will bring eventual success. While it may be easier to tie the shoe, allotting him or her the time to do it successfully on his or her own will serve them best in the long run. And, Ms. Holmes knows that and always chooses the path that will benefit them in the future! Ms. Holmes is dependable and consistent in her interactions with all students and peers.
Our students in our class thrive in our environment because we work together and make sure both of us have clear expectations that are reachable and enforceable. We are a team and she is a TEAM player. She helps set the tone of our classroom and assures that our classroom is a safe and healthy environment conducive to learning.
 
She can intuitively assess the mood of our classroom or a student and she is excellent at adapting accordingly! She has often provided our students who conflicted with one another a safe area in the classroom where she provides “counseling” and assists in conflict resolution.
The best part is that it's not only the students in our class that request time to speak with Sharon Holmes, but many students outside of Special Education request to speak with her when they are struggling. She truly puts students first and has built relationships with students throughout our school!" --colleague

December 4
Stephanie Vickers, Zucker Middle
Bilingual Receptionist


"Ms. Vickers is the epidome of "Students are the Heart of Our Work" and a team player.

She makes Zucker a better place with her daily positive energy, consistent kindness, and willingness to help. While maintaining and amicable attitude, she (and her colleagues in the front) keep an orderly, high-functioning, friendly and safe office. She has wonderful rapport with everyone, especially some of our Spanish-speaking students.

She gladly helps communicate and/or translate with parents multiple times a day for the entire school. She is a wonderful and dedicated advocate for students."
--colleague

 

November 20
Sarah Breland
Guidance Counselor
Wando High School

"Sarah has worked her entire educational career at Wando. She started 40+ years ago in the classroom as a Special Education Assistant and then Special Education teacher. Over the last 30+ years Ms. Breland has served as a School Counselor at Wando.

Sarah is dedicated to her students and the community she serves. Ms. Breland strives so that every student is College and Career Ready and is particularly passionate about minority and underrepresented students having equal access to postsecondary goals so they can reach their every potential." --colleague

 

November 13, 2020

Denice Shaw, Counselor
Clark Academy and Daniel Jenkins Academy

Denise Shaw is responsible for two schools where she works tirelessly to ensure that each school runs seamlessly. Covid-19 did not hinder her dedication in the least. It takes a lot of traits to be an effective counselor and even more to be a Guidance Director and she exemplifies them all.

We at Clark and DJA are so lucky to have her.

November 6, 2020

Carol Holmes, Special Education Assistant
Hunley Park Elementary School

Ms. Holmes is always thinking of the greater community. Each year she raises funds for the Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure. This year during unprecedented times she still brought cancer awareness to our Hunley Park Community. Students, teachers and staff were encouraged to wear pink. Also, when they entered our building they saw pink and red balloons in the shape of the ribbon we associate with the Cancer Society. Additionally, she is leading the charge in our collecting canned goods to give to families in need. She is the employee who is always smiling, leading us in our school spirit and greeting our teachers and staff with professionalism and grace. These examples show how she is always exposing our students to be thoughtful, lead with the heart and to remember the needs of others. She is our unsung hero. We are lucky to have her in our hive.

October 30, 2020

Barbara Harpe, Seventh Grade Math
Simmons - Pinckney Middle

Ms. Harpe is an outstanding team lead. During this "new" school year, Ms. Harpe has provided stability and guidance to both her students and her staff. Her experience as an educator and leader has been clearly visible as she is thorough and organized even in the midst of this unpredictable school year. Ms. Harpe always takes extra time out of her schedule to ensure students on the right track with both academics and behavior. Due to her organization and passion, she is able to set high standards that are clear and obtainable. Both students and staff are lucky to have a teacher like Ms. Harpe on their team.

 

October 23, 2020

Ebone Gordon, Parent Advocate
E.B. Ellington Elementary

Parent Advocate, Ebone Gordon, has and continues to go above and beyond to support families within and around the E.B. Ellington community. From working with the Lowcountry Food Bank to organize food distributions to assisting parents with housing, utilities, and other needs, Ms. Gordon performs her work with a cheerful disposition and without hesitation. Ms. Gordon has a special gift in that she knows almost every family that has children who attend Ellington. This gift has enabled Ms. Gordon to establish a positive and trusting relationship with our families. Ms. Ebone Gordon epitomizes the excellence for which CCSD is known and truly keeps students at the heart of our work!

 

October 16, 2020
Melanie Burbage
Lucy Beckham High School

Melanie is our auditorium specialist and coordinates all the audio/visual for any event held in our arts center.  But Melanie has become so much more for Beckham due to her dedication to make sure that anything technical or technology related in our building works flawlessly.  Opening a new building is a huge team effort and Melanie has stepped in time and time again to help everyone with everything from basic connectivity to setting up radios and phones.  She is a true team player with creative problem-solving skills and a never give up attitude. Her ability to assist teachers with both in-person and virtual tech issues has been essential to starting the school year successfully.  She is truly an unsung hero for our school community that we love and appreciate so much!  
 

October 9, 2020

Rita Gongora
C.E. Williams Middle School (North Campus)

Rita Gongora pours her heart into her work. It is evident in every interaction you have with her whether you are a colleague, a student or a parent. Rita has been a breath of fresh air and a cheerleader as we navigate this digital world of learning. Going above and beyond her role as a math teacher she provides training for our staff, fields technology questions all day, research new programs and websites to use and does it all with a smile on her face. As an example, Rita spent hours of her weekend to ensure that each Zoom link for the 130 students on her team worked! This made for a stress-free first virtual day for her students. I had the pleasure of listening to her teach students online. She was bubbling with enthusiasm and creating relationships with them while teaching math- not an easy feat! The care she takes to speak to each student and the time she puts in to ensure that everyone is getting attention is awe-inspiring.


Rita not only works tirelessly to make virtual learning a fun and engaging environment but she is an active part in our school culture. When we received more in-person students on the 21st, virtual schedules were rearranged. Rita took on an extra class because she knew her colleagues felt overwhelmed. This is Rita’s heart. She puts her students and her school first. Spending time after school to work through tech issues with a fellow teacher, looking up just the right image to use on a slide, or triple-checking a link to be sure it works, Rita is who you want to teach your child. She is always encouraging, always ready with a laugh, and always willing to help you find a solution. We cannot be prouder that she is a Wolverine!

October 2, 2020 

Carling Shalloo, Kindergarten Teacher
Laurel Hill Primary School

Carling Shalloo is a dedicated and creative Kindergarten Teacher at Laurel Hill Primary. This summer, Ms. Shalloo spent numerous hours developing a user-friendly class website, Canvas pages, and informational videos for her students and families. During the first few weeks of school, she shared her expertise with her entire team. She held workshops, individual sessions, and provided resources to help teachers navigate through the new learning platforms. Ms. Shalloo is an Unsung Educator for helping our youngest students, families, and co-workers begin this year with a seamless transition to virtual learning. She went above and beyond to show students are the heart of our work.

September 25, 2020

Casey Engleking
Pre-K North Charleston Elementary

"Mr. Engleking provides a positive classroom experience for his Pre-K students at NCES. He was worked hard to learn Spanish to assist his ELL students and goes above and beyond to provide cultural resources within the classroom. Not only a leader in the classroom, he is also a leader for our department through researching and sharing resources that support Phonemic Awareness. He has created teacher resources to support Heggerty Phonemic awareness instruction so students can be ready for Kindergarten."

September 18, 2020

Katherine Freligh, Media Specialist,
Mary Ford Early Learning & Family Center

"Mrs. Freligh has been tirelessly working to prepare all parts of Mary Ford for the new school year. From coming in over the summer to organize shipping containers of materials in our library to partnering with local volunteers to beautify our campus, Mrs. Freligh sees a need and immediately offers to help. Currently she is working above and beyond to help all of our families utilize their technology for distance learning, always ensuring that our students have whatever they need to learn. Mrs. Freligh's selfless work and dedication put the heartBEAT into "Students are the heart of our work!" --colleague