Teachers and staff members dropped by Elizabeth Supan's classroom at Aiken Elementary School early Tuesday morning – hugging her in delight after her selection the night before as the new Aiken County School District Teacher of the Year.
Around 7:30 a.m., students from Supan's first math group arrived – adding their hugs and one youngster giving her a large card. When a student announced her new title over the intercom, her students responded with warm applause.
Supan is bubbly and always “up” and has created a community within her classroom.
“She's really nice and fun,” said Kate Bradford. “She's really good at teaching stuff and helping you.”
It's a cliche, Supan said in an application about her approach to her career, but she always knew she would become a teacher. As a kid, she would bring the other neighborhood children to the family garage for her very own school. Supan would even go through her teachers' trash to add to her own educational collection.
Today, she is teaching math in 90-minute blocks and thoroughly enjoys it.
“Math has evolved, especially with Common Core,” Supan said. “The idea is to get our children to think about math and figure out how a problem was solved. It's not 15 years ago when it was simple computation. I take a lot of time outside of school researching for best practices – looking at YouTube songs and videos as ways to get kids moving.”
Supan taught at J.D. Lever Elementary School before moving to Aiken Elementary School in 2001.
Over 19 years she has looked for ways to keep herself energized. In late 2011, she started participating in a blog of teachers much like herself and found it a way to continue engaging her students.
“There are hundreds of thousands of bloggers,” Supan said. “I've grown so much from that experience and share with others. Four of my closest blog friends texted me, and they were ecstatic.”
What makes Supan great is that she's a lifelong learner, always interested in honing her craft, said Principal Becky Koelker.
“You can't teach your students everything,” she said. “You have to impart on them a thirst for learning and find out what they need to do. Mrs. Supan does that with great enthusiasm. She's also a leader, and I put her on the leadership team the day I walked through the door.”
In her biographical essay, Supan described how she believes in her students.
She recalls Mrs. Matthews, her own fifth-grade teacher, especially that she cared about the young girl in her classroom.
In her own career, Supan has seen many educational trends, yet one thing remains constant.
“If we show our students that we care about their learning, then they will learn,” she said. “Mrs. Matthews cared. For that, I will always be thankful.”