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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

May 22
Adrian King
Turning Point Academy

Adrian King is a middle grade teacher at Turning Point Academy, an alternative program serving students from across the district.

Mr. King was surprised to receive an email from DonorsChoose.org in April with two $500 Walmart gift cards. The $1,000 donation is part of Keep Kids Learning, a charitable initiative to provide needed supplies for students learning at home during the COVID-19 crisis.

Over the past three weeks, Adrian King and a small team from Turning Point Academy have made weekly deliveries to 22 students spread across the county, from Mount Pleasant to Hollywood.

The first week, they delivered school supplies and a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables. Students told Mr. King that what they really needed was food for dinner. So, the next week, Mr. King and his colleagues brought each family all the ingredients for a cookout. The next week, they brought an Italian meal of lasagna, garlic bread, and salad.

 

May 15
Ashley Henry
Laing Middle School

During this difficult time, teachers from around the world are missing their students and having a hard time connecting with them.

Ashley has taken it upon herself to plan weekly family game nights for her students and their family. The students participate virtually and they have played games like Deal or No Deal, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Charades.

She has constantly gone above and beyond during this time to engage our students. As members of her team, we are so thankful for her!

May 8

Coach Cameron Orr Honors and AP English
West Ashley High School


"Coach Orr is the kind of teacher every parent wants for their child! He gets to know his students and has a wonderful rapport with them. He has high expectations for them and provides rigor with his instruction. However, he presents the material in a super organized way and reaches every student. The material in his English class is fun, challenging, and exciting.

During this pandemic, he has offered office hours from 7-5 p.m. each day. He holds various google chats throughout the week with students not only in groups but individually. He has communicated with them each week and day to make sure every student understands his expectations. Coach Orr is REALLY TOPS when it comes to being a teacher! We need more educators like him!"

 

May 1

Calli Collins
Lambs Elementary

Ms. Collins is an essential member of our Lambs family!  She is an incredibly innovative, resourceful, and dedicated educator and leader. She fosters the love of reading in our students in her library and through schoolwide reading events and traditions. 


She has created and kept many cherished traditions alive at our school. Beginning the first week of our transition to distance learning, she created “StoryTime Live!” in which she reads stories live for our school community each weekday at 10:30AM. These live storytimes have become the new normal, connecting staff, students, pets, and families! 


This year every student fell in love with Wilbur and Charlotte because of the “One Book, One School” event she produced. In addition to the school reading a chapter a day together, she led staff and students in a STEAM project to make 514 spiders and hung every single spider in the hallway. For every year’s Read Across America week, she transforms the hallway into a world of wonder composed of an entire wall covered in posters she makes of each staff member’s childhood photo and information for students to read and guess Who’s Who. 


More schoolwide traditions she has given Lambs include Family Literacy Tile Painting Night, book fairs, schoolwide bingos, and a welcoming corridor of faculty and staff portraits at the beginning of the year. Taking these pictures has become a tradition in itself, as she enlists the help of her mother who bakes peanut butter chocolate cookies to give each staff member after having their photos taken.

Mrs. McCarthy says, “Ms. Collins has a love of teaching and reading!  She takes initiative to go above and beyond to engage our students in literacy.  She has made the library the heart of our building! She has impressed me this year, and I am grateful Ms. Collins loves Lambs Elementary as much as I do!” 

 

April 24

Mary Anne Mouthaan
Oakland Elementary

"Mary Anne Mouthaan has been a rock star with helping everyone navigate e-learning.

She posts resources and websites that are available for teaching and keeping students engaged.

She is available to help teachers and staff with how to questions about zoom, google meet and other virtual communication platforms. She has maintained our website and facebook pages to make sure they have the most up to date information for our families. She reads to the students each week and continues to show her love of literature.

Thank you Mary Anne for all of your hard work!" --nominated by colleague

April 17

Robert Veronee, Exceptional Children Assistant
Deer Park Middle School

"Mr. Veronee goes above and beyond not only for the students he works with, but also as a HUGE supporter of his fellow co-workers, and a major advocate for the school as a whole. As we are learning distantly, in order to stay close to students he took the challenge of creating a daily video for our students and posting to YouTube."
-- nominated by a colleague

April 3

Marguerite Farrell, C.E. Williams
Guidance Counselor

"Ms. Farrell supports teachers by checking in with our more vulnerable students. She provides small group activities for those students that need more socio-emotional help. But now with the online environment,

Ms. Farrell has shifted gears and is thinking outside the box for our students. She was instrumental in working on and initiating our first "Virtual Spirit Week".

She is helping teachers connect with those students not online yet. Whether in school or out, Ms. Farrell goes way beyond what is required for her job in everything she does." --colleague

March 27 

Noel Bridges, 6th Grade
Camp Road Middle School

"Noel Bridges is the epitome of a career educator. She had dedicated her professional career to the pursuit of the answer to the question: "How can I reach all of my students?" Noel is able to command a room full of students, encourage a kid with a simple look, or meet students' needs with individualized playlists. She is on the PBIS committee at our school and uses this position to make sure we meet the needs of our most vulnerable students. She is tireless in her effort to meet the academic needs of our students through digital content, as she also serves on our Digital-Learning Committee.

In a word, Noel is dedicated. She is dedicated to making all students feel successful and grow toward college and career." --fellow colleague

March 13
Alexandria Speers, Exceptional Children Teacher

Morningside Middle School


"When anyone walks into Ms. Speers’ classroom, they are immediately overcome with a sense of belonging and kindness. Her passion is unconditional, and her scholars’ learning and unbelievable successes speak to her dedication. She is honest, kind, consistent, shows grace, and is an advocate for her scholars.

Ms. Speers values her scholars, always puts them first, and builds their confidence both in and out of the classroom. She has amazing relationships with her aides, scholars, and coworkers alike. Alex’s constant optimism is inspiring, and we are so thankful to have her as a part of our family here at Morningside!" --colleague

March 6
Marvaye Payton 5th grade
Goodwin Elementary

"Mr. Payton is energized and focused. He works with each student like they are the only ones in the classroom and ensures that they work at their best potential. His scores show it! He is consistent and motivating. He builds that sense of community with not only his students, but their parents, too! The students love him and do well for him because of his nurturing nature. He once said that just because a student is difficult doesn't mean they don't deserve a good education. Even on the bad days, he shows up ready and willing to make it a special day for his students." -- nominated by a colleague

 

 

 

February 28
Merlen Mills, ESOL teacher

North Charleston High School

Ms. Merlen Mills is not only a dedicated educator, but a strong and persistent advocate for the ESOL population she serves.

Quite often, she stays late after school, makes weekend home visits to support her students' families, and demonstrates her understanding of serving the whole child each and every day.

When she is not at school or working on providing supports both academically and personally for her students, she broadens her skills by taking relevant professional development and shares much of her learning with her professional peers. It is evident that her students value her passion and love for them, as often I see them giving her hugs, inquire about her family and her interests, and share their most difficult challenges with her.

She leads by example, teaching them to be victors, and not victims, of their situations, no matter how tough the struggle may be.

February 21
Kevin Keith
Daniel Jenkins Academy
 
Kevin Keith goes above and beyond for not only Daniel Jenkins Academy, but he also teaches at the Juvenile Detention center and teaches homebound students in his free time.
 
Kevin effortlessly creates relationships with his students and colleagues. Everyone looks forward to seeing him and enjoys his optimism even on the tougher days.

February 14
Starr Fonseca
West Ashley High School

"Starr joined the West Ashley team last year and she has made an amazing impact on our student body. Starr provides student-centered lessons and activities in all of her Spanish courses.

She builds relationships with students of various backgrounds and has become essential in our efforts to better support our students. Starr is always early, stays late, attends events, and sponsors SGA and the Sophomore Class. If you ask students what teachers are best at building relationships, 90% of them would have Ms. Fonseca at the top of their list.

She is helpful, kind, gracious and constantly displays kindness!" --colleague

 

 

January 31

Deaudre Frazier and Janel Dunmyer, Teacher Assistants
James Simons Elementary / Montessori


Ms. Frazier and Ms. Dunmyer are a dynamic duo who have made the middle school at James Simons run smoothly for the past 5 years. These two teacher assistants go above and beyond the call of duty, wearing many different hats and always make decisions that benefit our students.

They lead a Culinary and Creative Arts Elective for our adolescent students, spearhead fundraising efforts for their end of year trips, and provide intervention and remediation for our students who need additional support. JSM is blessed to have these two women in our lives.
-- nominated by a colleague

January 24
Mary Beth Dinunzio - Art Teacher

Mitchell Elementary

"Ms. Dinunzio goes beyond just teaching. She is dedicated to her passion for art and shares her unmatched creativity with her students. The students eye catching and amazing art work hang on the Mitchell walls and brighten up otherwise dull hallways. She selects a famous artist and teaches the students about the artist and how to mimic their style.
For example, she had them create wrought iron gates, designed with black curlicue paper, that resembled the work of Philip Simmons. Because of her dedication and creativity, the students will remember famous artists the rest of their lives. For a moment in time, they were the artists! -- nominated by colleagues

 

January 17
Julie Hord
Stono Park Elementary

Ms. Hord is an exceptional employee at SPES. She is not only an employee but also a SPES parent. She currently serves as our school's PTA President. She has always been an advocate for the Stono Park Community. She is the epitome of the definition of a servant. She goes above and beyond for the staff and scholars at our school. She always lends herself to whatever the school may need.

She is invaluable and we can't imagine where we would be without her.

January 10
Mamie Rader
Garrett Academy of Technology

Nurse Mamie Rader’s intervention recently led to a student being diagnosed with Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

Teacher Amy Brunson took her student seriously when he complained of fatigue and a leg cramp that kept him up all night. She sent him to the clinic to see Nurse Rader.

Nurse Rader’s training and instincts went into overdrive.

“My mind went to hydration and as we talked he commented that he was thirsty and had to use the restroom a lot,” said Rader. “That was a signal to me that this could be serious.”

Rader called the student’s mother who came immediately to the school to take him to the emergency room. Read full article

December 20
Amy Buckheister
Zucker Middle School

"Ms. Buckheister is a dedicated, passionate, and kind educator. She has high expectations for herself, her students, and her colleagues.

Buckheister wears many hats at Zucker, and wears them all well!

Besides teaching daily (SAIL and 7th grade honors ELA), she is an ELA instructional coach helping support teachers with lesson plans, data analysis, classroom management, differentiated instruction, intervention, scheduling, and direct instruction.

She is a member of the school leadership team, MTSS Team, MAP coordinator, led the PBIS committee for years, conducts the annual spelling bee, attends grade level meetings, coordinates service learning projects, leads an after school book club for students, leads book studies for staff, and helps to coordinate the high stakes state standardized testing.

Most importantly, she creates meaningful genuine relationships with her colleagues and students and inspires all to be their best. I am sure that I'm leaving out other roles of Ms. Buckheister !

--colleague

 

December 13
Jason Brisini
Wando High School

"Jason Brisini is the type of teacher and person we should all strive to be every day. He cares deeply about each and every student while inspiring them to learn & care about the world around them. Despite taking on a new job this year as a teacher coach, Jason wanted to continue working with students in an early bird course. Teenagers are getting up an hour early to be in his class - that should speak volumes! He is also using "Skype like" technology to include 2 other high schools in his course.

My oldest son had Mr. Brisini, and fell in love with Political Science (now his second major at Clemson). Jason even takes time each week to work with students who are struggling, and spends time truly getting to know the kids."

-- nominated by an employee

December 6
Cindy Branscome
Physical Education 
Charleston County School of the Arts.

Ms. Branscome nomination is described below:

"Cindy Branscome works tirelessly to encourage students to engage in physical education. She frequently goes unrecognized because our school focus is on the arts.

However, it never goes unrecognized to me because I also teach a form of the physical arts, dance. I support all of Cindy's efforts to have students lead healthy lifestyles and use their bodies. It only helps my dance students better use their bodies and take care of them. I know my students enjoy her classes.

She makes them fun, fair, and educational. I recommend her because Cindy's students are the heart of her work." -- colleague

November 22
Betty "BT" Bouton
Camp Road Middle School

"BT takes pride in her classroom, the media center. In fact, she encourages teachers to visit weekly and not just for the typical book check out, she teachers meaningful lessons that support classroom teachers.

She teaches students how to utilize all our databases, creating interactive activities such as scavenger hunts to get students excited about learning. Additionally, BT teaches students how to properly use MLA formatting, provides countless tips and tricks on how to properly research, and most importantly she guides students on how to find the perfect book.

I have single-handedly witnessed BT turning hundreds of reluctant readers into students excited about their next great read. She is so well versed in the books in the library with only a few simple questions- voila, she has found just the perfect book. BT hooks students on authors or genres and it truly is like witnessing the magic!

Beyond the library, BT serves as our ELA department chair. She supports teachers, advocates for us, and offers her time to help plan units with teachers across the disciplines. BT organizes fundraisers throughout the year to provide author visits for our students, yet another way to captivate students’ minds into the world of books.

 

BT is irreplaceable and I am honored to teach alongside her." --numerous colleagues

 

November 15
Michelle Wright, Procurement

Jonathon Robinson
Supply Support Lead - Facilities

 

Senator Sandy Senn contacted CCSD asking for donations to assist the students that will be returning to school at the end of October. After the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, Senator Senn has secured airplanes and shipping containers to get items to the Bahamas.  
 
Several times a year, CCSD sends outdated curriculum to Books of Africa.
After learning of the opportunity to help students in the Bahamas, Bridgeview employees Michelle Wright and Jonathon Robinson jumped on the opportunity to help these students.
 
After receiving approval, two pallets of booklets were delivered on Tuesday, November 5th to Water Missions International.
 

November 8
Lauren Martin 
James Simons Elementary

 

Ms. Lauren Martin has been working at James Simons since she started her teaching career about a decade ago.  Ms. Martin is a compassionate and responsive educator who goes above and beyond her role as a music teacher.  She carefully selects and creates lessons that integrate the content curriculum and builds community in her school. Ms.Martin is the epitome of a team player and a person who truly views students as the heart of our work. Since last year Ms. Martin has started a leadership initiative at our school for our adolescent students.  Aside from in their music elective, this isn't a population of students that Ms. Martin typically serves in our PreK-8 setting.  However, Ms. Martin has taken the initiative to serve as a mentor, advisor, and guide to our middle school students. This is an age group that needs guidance as they transition from childhood to adulthood--elementary school to high school, and Ms. Martin takes this role very seriously.

Additionally, she plans thoughtful performances that coincide with the mission and vision of our school and again relate to the content of our core academic curriculum. 

 

James Simons is fortunate to have Ms. Martin who is a model for other educators!

 

 

November 1
Mary Scholtens
Whitesides Elementary

 

"Ms. Scholtens has taught at Whitesides for over 20 years, but constantly seeks ways to improve her teaching and provide more opportunities for her students. Each year, she writes and directs an original production for every grade level, as well as teaching classes and directing choruses for fourth and fifth grades. She recently wrote and received donors choose grant to pay for music therapy for autistic students, bringing in a Board-Certified Music Therapist. Therapist Laura Ruipoli, a former Whitesides’ student herself, worked with Mrs. Scholtens and the Exceptional Children Educators to make a plan that helps students accomplish their IEP goals while expanding their exposure and enjoyment of music. Seeing the response of the students, she sought additional funding and was funded by the SC Arts Commission for 2nd semester.

 

Cynthia Perez, Mrs. Scholtens principal said, "It's exciting to see these students respond to music in a different way, especially for the students who did not easily connect to music during a traditional class. These sessions have not only been beneficial for the students, but have also provided wonderful opportunities for the teacher to capture more knowledge about individual students, which provides more meaningful learning opportunities for each student."

October 25, 2019 
Samantha Blake
E.B. Ellington Elementary

"From the moment I met Ms. Blake at my interview, she has been an inspirational leader. A soothing manner, a sense of humor, and a firm foundation in her teaching style has helped me acclimate to a new teaching environment. She has taken time to define expectations, unfurl standards, and guide me through the program.  Samantha's leadership skills are apparent to all who come in contact with her. She has been approached by others for assistance and there is always a confirming smile. 
 
Samantha exudes admirable leadership skills and I am proud to work beside her as part of the 5th-grade team." --colleague

 

October 18, 2019
Officer Caleb Bradish, School Resource Officer
Buist Academy

"This year, we are very fortunate to have a full-time School Resource Officer. He is an amazing addition to our Buist family.
 
Last month, he supported kindergarten classes by inviting special community helpers to the school. He was also able to bring Peppa Pig to visit from the Charleston County Public Library. You can also find him monitoring the halls, helping car riders, and having lunch with students. He works extremely hard to keep us safe and happy." ---Buist teacher
 

October 11, 2019
Tyra Johnson, North Charleston ES/Dunston

"Ms. Johnson is the family service advocate for NorthCharleston ES and Matilda F. Dunston Primary. She goes above and beyond to address family needs that impact children's readiness to learn each school day.  
 
Students sometimes miss school because they don't have clean clothes. Last year, Ms. Johnson developed a partnership with a laundromat near Dunston to offer families a free wash & dry night. This school year, she requested a washer and dryer for North Charleston ES through Whirlpool's Care Counts program. Ms. Johnson understands that student success is influenced by factors outside of school. By increasing access to clean clothes, truancy is reduced and students are ready to learn."

October 4, 2019
Tyler Bealmear, Moultrie Middle School

"Tyler Bealmear teaches students with exceptional needs, and despite various challenges during the first three days of school, he has persevered, adapting to meet students' needs with a moment's notice. Dedicated to continuous improvement, he also works collaboratively and creatively with stakeholders to help students overcome the various challenges they face.

Mr. Bealmear always offers a smile as he encourages those who work alongside him. His dedication to the exceptional community of learners he serves is admirable." --nominated by a colleague

September 27, 2019
Melissa Zahler, Chicora Elementary

"Melissa is a media specialist who is simply amazing.   Melissa is part of the media specialist cohort that started last year.  She was previously a first grade teacher who decided to step out of the classroom and take on a new challenge - and what a challenge it was.  Fast forward one year - She's an ICON.  The students love her and she loves them.  She has tackled some amazing projects and has been hitting homeruns on all of them.  She has created a very dynamic morning news show that has student interviews, wellness tips, fun facts, etc.  (Talk about it Tuesday, Wellness Wednesday, Throughout the School Thursday)  She's created an Oasis Room for students who are caught doing the right thing can come and spend some time putting together puzzles, reading, working on their iPad, etc."

September 20, 2019
Caroline Boyd - James Island Elementary School.

"Ms. Boyd is the Data Clerk/Front Office Guru at JIES.

She handles her multiple responsibilities of supporting the staff, students and parents with grace, patience, and is a true lens of "Students are the Heart of Our Work." -- nominated by a colleague 

September 13, 2019 -  Caroline Stalvey, Wando High School

"Caroline Stalvey is one of those young teachers who is wise beyond her years. She has a humble demeanor, yet she radiates confidence and dedication to her craft. Her knowledge of her content, her love for her profession, and her dedication to her students are evident in everything she does. 
 
Caroline is a leader in differentiation and personalized learning. She opens her classroom to other teachers to observe, and her lessons are models on how to meet students where they are. She seamlessly weaves instructional technology into her lessons so students can track their own progress, and she is a pioneer in using every resource she has to close the achievement gap. 
 
As she moves around her classroom or greets students in the hall, you can see by the look on their faces that they know they are valued by their teacher and are ready to work hard for her and with her." -- Nominated by fellow teacher

August 30, 2019 - North Charleston Community

Three of CCSD's schools were used as shelters for those who needed a place to wait out Hurricane Dorian.

The volunteers at Military Magnet Academy - MMA, R.B. Stall High School, and Jerry Zucker Middle School included both CCSD and non-CCSD personnel.

Individuals who put helping their community above helping themselves! Some of these groups included the American Red Cross of South Carolina, North Charleston Police Department and CCSD Nutrition Services.

Hurricane Dorian was the first time Jerry Zucker MS served as a storm shelter. Principal Perlmutter's team rose to the occasion and welcomed the challenge with enthusiasm and determination.

We want to thank all these individuals for their service to our community in not only North Charleston, but everywhere else in the Lowcountry!

 

August 23, 2019 - Theressa Varner, Laing Middle School

"Ms. Varner is a 7th Grade Science teacher. She has been an educator for more than 15 years having previously taught at Morningside MS.
 
She pushes her fellow educators to share their knowledge by having an open-door policy and advocates for the #ObserveMe movement. As educators, we often close ourselves off from others in order to focus on content, but her approach is to collaborate and build competency within the group.
 
She is a curriculum writer for the science department and is always willing to share her knowledge and approach with fellow educators. She is family driven and involved with her church, but always has time to connect and share her resources with her teaching teams." --nominated by a Laing colleague

 

August 16, 2019 - Lori Holbrook, Mitchell Elementary

Lori Holbrook is the science lab teacher at Mitchell Elementary. 

She has designed lessons for all grade levels that incorporate engineering and design as well as the scientific method.  You can often find her dressed up like Einstein, pulling on a lab coat, or elbow-deep in slime.  She oversees our touch tank and terrapin aquarium. 

In addition, Lori has her license to drive buses and will volunteer to drive our students on field trips in order to save money.  When she accompanies our students on outdoor field trips she doubles as the environmental guide. Whether it's marine life or earth science, Lori has a wealth of knowledge.  She also volunteers her time after-school and during the summer.  Recently she drove a group of our students to a camp in North Carolina in order to safe them travel money.  She is a dedicated and caring teacher and we are very fortunate she is at Mitchell.