An elementary school teacher with the desire to change the world by molding the minds of her students has been named Florence County School District Three’s Teacher of the Year.
Tiffany Smith, a third-grade teacher at Main Street Elementary School, was named Teacher of the Year during the district’s annual Opening Ceremony Thursday welcoming back teachers for the new school year. She will represent FCSD3 in the State Teacher of the Year competition.
Smith was among the three finalists along with Lisa Evans, an English education teacher at Lake City High School, and Christy Flowers, a first-grade teacher at Lake City Early Childhood Center.
Smith said her decision to become an educator was not driven only by her love of children or the influence of one of her teachers. “Straight out of college I wanted to change the world! I was going to do this by helping to mold the minds of future generations,” she said.
She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Master of Education degree in elementary education from The College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York. She began her teaching career in New York before coming to FCSD3 as an elementary teacher first at Scranton Elementary and then at Main Street Elementary.
She is a member of the South Carolina Council of Mathematics Teachers and South Carolina Science Council. She also volunteers with Florence Baptist Temple’s Reformers Unanimous, which ministers to those with addictions and their families. In addition, she is a volunteer at the House of Hope Women’s Home, a homeless shelter for women and children of the Pee Dee, and served as the school coordinator for Main Street Elementary’s March of Dimes fundraising campaign.
Smith said her philosophy of teaching is that all students are capable of learning, but her philosophy has changed over the years to include data analysis.
“It is the teacher’s job to find the best way of learning for each of his or her students,” she said. “Today’s learners bring their own background knowledge and a wide variety of special skills to the classroom. The teacher needs to access this knowledge and use it toward the student’s benefit,” she added
“Over time, I have realized the impact that data analysis can have in a classroom and added it to my philosophy,” she added. “Interpreting and analyzing data helps me understand individual student strengths and weaknesses. When I am able to teach toward what the data show I save time and teach exactly what the students need.”
Smith said it is important to her to build relationships with her students. “I spend the time to get to know my students at the beginning of the year and socialize with them at lunch and recess so that I can continue that relationship with them,” she said. “I get to know their families and make sure to call home for great behavior as well as when I need support with something in the classroom.”
Each school’s staff selected a teacher of the year to represent their respective schools. A panel of four judges with backgrounds in education selected the finalists based on written responses to questions that focused on teaching philosophy, influences that led to a teaching career and the importance of education on society as well as a videotaped classroom lesson.
Each school’s Teacher of the Year received a gift and finalists also received $250. School-level teachers of the year include:
- Nina Blake is a science teacher for grades 6-12 at the Alternative Center for Education. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and chemistry from Claflin University and a master’s degree in health care administration from the Medical University of South Carolina. She has also taught honors and college prep science classes at Lake City High School where she served as co-adviser for student government, junior varsity girls’ basketball coach and junior varsity girls’ softball coach.
- Matthew Cheek is a sixth grade social studies teacher at J. Paul Truluck Intermediate School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Clemson University and plans to begin working on a master’s degree in administration this fall. He recently completed a two-year term as a member of the Blue Key National Honor Society board of directors. He also serves as a Teach for America Ambassador and was nominated for a Teach for America Sue Lehman Teaching Fellowship in 2015-2016. In addition, he served as an assistant coach for the middle school football team.
- Lisa Evans teaches English education in grades 9-12 at Lake City High School. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education from Francis Marion University and has completed graduate coursework through FMU, Converse College and the University of South Carolina. She serves on the Panther New Tech Advisory Board and has served as a national presenter for New Tech Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida. She also coached varsity softball at Lake City High School. In addition, she helped start an academic study group for students at her church and teaches a Bible study class for three-year-olds. She and her students also raised money to purchase Christmas gifts for nursing home residents. The class partnered with Palmetto Gift Shop to wrap each present.
- Christy Flowers is a first-grade teacher at Lake City Early Childhood Center. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Francis Marion University and a master’s degree in Instruction and Curriculum with a Specialization in Creative Arts and Learning from Lesley University. She also has completed postgraduate work at the University of South Carolina and College of Charleston. She taught elementary school at McLaurin Elementary for 11 years where she was named the school’s Teacher of the Year in 2006-2007 before coming to FCSD3 in 2014. She is a member of the Palmetto State Teacher’s Association and serves as a mentor teacher and grade level chair at LCECC. She also serves on the school’s literacy council and community teacher council.
- Dawn Frazier is a kindergarten teacher at J.C. Lynch Elementary School. She attended Midlands Technical College and earned an associate degree from the University of South Carolina-Sumter and later earned a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education from USC. She is a member of the National Education Association, South Carolina International Reading Association, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Association and Geographic Alliance. She also has served as a Kindergarten Team Lead Teacher and school representative for Relay for Life, Prostate cancer fundraiser and breast cancer fundraiser. She serves as a Sunday school teacher and as a member of the East Clarendon Booster Club’s board of directors. She also has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Operation Christmas Child, Free Will Baptist Children’s home, and Holiday Packages for Inmates, and Supporting our Troops.
- Dianne McKenzie teaches second grade at Olanta Elementary School. She earned an associate degree in secretarial science from Sumter Area Technical College, an associate degree in office systems technology and a certificate in office support accounting from Central Carolina Technical College and a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Grand Canyon University. She serves as the school’s Parent Liaison, chairperson of the School Improvement Council and secretary of the Parent Teacher Organization. She is a member of Palmetto Teachers’ Association. She is a youth Sunday school teacher and organizes her church’s annual Academics Award Banquet.
- Brittany Sanders is a fifth grade English language arts teacher at Scranton Elementary School. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Francis Marion University and a master’s degree in library science from East Carolina University and the University of South Carolina. Before coming to FCSD3, she taught for two years at Eagle Nest Elementary School in Dorchester County where she was named Rookie Techer of the Year. She is a member of the Palmetto State Teachers’ Association, South Carolina International Reading Association and American Library Association. At SES, she was recognized as a Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) Value-Added 5 teacher. She has participated in food drives for Harvest Hope and partnered with McCall’s Farm and Moore Botanical Gardens to implement a summer gardening program for students.
- Desiree Wilson teaches eighth grade science at Ronald E. McNair Junior High School. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from South Carolina State University and a Master of Education degree in secondary educational administration from The Citadel. She also is a graduate of the South Carolina Department of Education’s School Leadership Program. Before coming to FCSD3, she taught at John Ford Middle School in St. Matthews, Southeast Middle School in Columbia, Hemingway High School and M.B. Lee Middle School in Hemingway where she was named the school’s Teacher of the Year in 2006-2007. She is a member of the National Science Teachers Association, National Education Association, South Carolina Education Association and South Carolina Science Council. She has served as a Team One Mentor, AdvancED Accreditation Committee member, School Leadership Team member and School Improvement Council member. She also volunteers twice a week after school at the Boys and Girls Club, providing homework and other academic assistance to participants.