- Charleston County School District
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.
ARCHIVES: Unsung Educator 2019-2020
Mount Pleasant Academy
Mrs. Betty is such a dedicated assistant. She is never in the forefront, in fact, she prefers to be in the background quietly making things happen. Mrs. Betty supports students in their daily living needs and can always be seen working. When you see Mrs. Betty, she will greet you with a smile. There is nothing she won't do to support our school and her students.
Mrs. Betty's students and families love her quiet spirit and helpful nature. Mrs. Betty is one of those people who will step in to help but would prefer not to have a spotlight on her. We want to shine a light on Mrs. Betty Brown!
Laurel Hill Primary School
Through and through, Mrs. Wilkins embodies the district's motto; Students are the Heart of Our Work. Each day, with consistent encouragement, kindness, and love towards her students, she lives out her belief that all children can learn. She has a huge heart for students with special needs and has created a class culture of love and acceptance that is obvious to everyone in the building. As a military spouse, Mrs.Wilkins has a deeply personal understanding of the dedication and sacrifice required to live a life of service to others.
Mrs. Wilkins is the teacher every parent wants for their child. She is engaging and, importantly genuine, deeply rooted in who she is as an educator and a person. Mrs. Wilkins is simply amazing!
Cooper River Center for Advanced Studies
James Island Charter High School
Advocate. Changemaker. Coordinator. Community Influencer. Creator. Facilitator. Innovator. Michele Johnson goes far beyond her role as an English teacher at JICHS. To attempt to summarize Ms. Johnson‘s skillset and contributions, within her community and educationally, into a singular narrative is simply an impossible task. Her 17 years as an educator have demonstrated the wide breadth of content knowledge, as well as practical application in relation to community improvement for all students, which has been on display daily in her classroom, virtual and in person. She utilizes her broad range of experience and education in English language and literature, culturally responsive education, and guidance and counseling to influence student agency and advocacy at JICHS.
Her dedication to providing quality opportunities to students is a hallmark of her legacy at JICHS. She has orchestrated yearly travel with groups of students and educators to Washington DC. This journey is a tour through history and the makings of America while exposing children to the profound educational components of these monuments and museums. Ms. Johnson brings such a wealth of knowledge, not only about Charleston, but also English, counseling, African American history, and culturally relevant education to each student and adult group she educates. There are so many wonderful opportunities she has created that allow students to grow academically and individually. Ms. Johnson is masterful at this work and it is a pleasure to collaborate and work alongside her."
Laing Middle School
"Vanessa Jefferson is truly the heart and soul of Laing Middle School. As the student concern specialist, she is involved in every facet of our school. Mrs. Jefferson is in the cafeteria, greeting the students and handing out lunch bags to hungry teenagers. She welcomes all students with a warm smile and a calm voice, and each kid knows they are safe when she is in the room.
Mrs. Jefferson is also involved in all disciplinary meetings ensuring fairness and equity. Although a lot of what Mrs. Jefferson does is in the school’s background, all of the teachers know just how well this school runs because of her. She truly is an unsung hero! --nominated by a colleague
James Simons Montessori
Alli Debrow - 5th Grade Teacher
E.B. Ellington Elementary
"I am thrilled to nominate Alli Debrow, a 5th-grade teacher at E.B. Ellington Elementary School. She is one of the most dedicated, hard-working, creative, and positive teachers I know!
Though we teach different grades at different schools, Alli and I speak every morning on our way to school and on our way home after school. She is a cheerleader and gets us revved up to start a productive day filled with creativity and positive approaches. Her excitement is contagious as she tells me all the things she's going to work on during the day and how she's going to make the kids love what they are doing. On our way home, she is always equally excited about the lessons she has taught with her class. Alli Debrow is a happy and dedicated teacher, for sure!" --nominated by a colleague
Whitney Bumgarner, CTE Teacher
R.B. Stall High School
"Students are the heart of the work that Whitney does at Stall. She goes above and beyond on a daily basis and has done so for the last 7 years that I have worked with her.
Erin Tarpley, 5th-grade Teacher
North Charleston Creative Arts
"Erin is such a blessing to the students that are fortunate enough to have her as their teacher, and to those that are lucky enough to work alongside her at NCCAE. Her passion for teaching, positive energy, and expertise are crystal clear the moment you meet her! She has high expectations for herself and for the students that she serves. She is a master at bringing out the very best in her students through the use of creative and engaging learning experiences. She is always kind, caring, compassionate, consistent, and realistic with her students and coworkers. She builds solid positive relationships with the students she serves which, in turn, creates a learning environment conducive to success!
She IS that role model of "lifelong learner" that we all desire for our students to achieve. CCSD and NCCAE are truly fortunate to have Erin Tarpley on board! She is INCREDIBLE!" --nominated by a colleague
Sara Kanapaux - Lead Exceptional Children
"Ms. Kanapaux has gone far above and beyond her usual scope of work this year to support teachers in the alternative programs across the district. She has provided lesson plans, IEP writing support, student problem-solving, and a shoulder to cry on at times.
In addition to her normal responsibilities, she is also teaching a class for the Central Virtual Academy, teaching a behavior/social-emotional class at Daniel Jenkins, and case managing students at DJA, LHA, and Clark. She has taken Chromebooks and mi-fi devices to students' homes, reaches out to families weekly to offer assistance, and always answers when a teacher calls. She has taken on all of these additional responsibilities without complaint and as a team player.
She truly has a focus on students' well-being as well as their academic outcomes. In addition to her focus on our most at-risk students in CCSD, she is raising a spirited three-year-old daughter and is a new puppy Mom. "
Becca Nexsen, ESOL Teacher
St. John's High School
"Becca is an incredible educator who, for the last four years, worked tirelessly to positively impact her students' English language proficiency as well as their performance in their mainstream classes at St. John's High School. In addition, Ms. Nexsen collaborates with teachers both from her school as well as from the ESOL team. Just this year, she collaborated with other ESOL instructors to impact students across the district through providing curriculum support, assisting with Canvas, and piloting a newcomer program for secondary schools. Ms.
Nexsen willingly shares resources with her colleagues such as lesson plans, worksheets, as well as various teaching strategies.
She is also part of her school's MTSS team where she assisted in developing an equitable international transcript interpretation policy. Finally, Becca has an amazing rapport with her students based on mutual respect and understanding". --nominated by a colleague
Charleston Progressive Academy
Hannah Brandel, English Teacher
Wando High School
"Hannah is an all-star. Everything she does within the halls of Wando exudes the motto "Students are the Heart of Our Work." She has taken over Student Council and has done an amazing job. With COVID, it has been hard for to Student Council to have as many activities as they usually do. They have been creative in trying to lift morale and to improve our school culture. In the fall, they organized an outdoor movie in our stadium. Currently, we are doing our second Spirit Week, where students and faculty can earn a prize for best dressed for each themed day. Outside of Student Council, Hannah has continued to increase enrollment in her AP Seminar course and assists anyone who needs it. Hannah is truly an ideal colleague and friend. We are more than lucky to have her here at Wando."!
-nominated by a colleague
Patti Clerc, Guidance Counselor
Mary Ford Early Learning and Family Center
"Ms. Clerc is not only front and center with our young scholars, but she is also behind-the-scenes, working tirelessly to meet the needs of children and families in our community. She comes to the classroom weekly for social-emotional lessons and our children light up when they know guidance is on the schedule! Ms. Clerc supports staff members and ensures resources are available for all. She is always positive, with a big smile on her face, ready to jump in and help at a moment's notice. Her energy and dedication exemplify that students are the heart of her work. We are so fortunate to have Ms. Clerc at our school!" -nominated by a colleague
Jennifer Grayson, English Teacher
"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.
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
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
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.
Debra Kerness, West Ashley area
Social Worker with Department of Alternative Programs and Services
Lauren Sailor, Liberty Hill Academy
"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."
Caitlin Bowden, Hursey Montessori School
James Felluca, Daniel Jenkins Academy
Sharon Holmes, C.E. Williams Middle
Special Education EMD & Multi-Categorical Classroom Assistant
Stephanie Vickers, Zucker Middle
"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."
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
Lucy Beckham High School
October 9, 2020
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
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