The Aiken County School District will host the annual Teacher of the Year banquet at the USC Aiken Convocation Center on Monday at 7 p.m.
The new district teacher of the year will be announced to serve during the 2013-14 term. The outgoing teacher of the year is Lisa Raiford, a special education educator at the Center for Innovative Learning at Pinecrest. She will address the audience about her experiences in that role over the past year.
Each school will be represented by its teacher of the year, selected by colleagues for the recognition. Before the formal program, the Aiken County Board of Education and co-sponsor Public Education Partners will hold a reception for the Honor Court – six teachers who are finalists for the district award.
They are: Tamara Butler, Hammond Hill Elementary School; Loretta Childress, Greendale Elementary School; Kathleen Langston, Redcliffe Elementary School; Amelia “Em” Ligon, Aiken High School; Karey Santos, Millbrook Elementary School; and Elizabeth Supan, Aiken Elementary School.
Two other teachers of the year – Jason McDowell of Schofield Middle School and Alayna Paine of Aiken Middle School – have some intriguing similarities. Both teach social studies, have mothers who are teachers and who later found themselves drawn to the middle school level.
A South Aiken High School graduate, McDowell was a practicing lawyer previously in his career. In that role, he encountered too many young teenagers who were getting into trouble.
He got encouragement about moving into education, including from his mother, North Aiken Elementary School teacher Teresa Spann.
McDowell later completed the PACE program, which provides alternative certification. He joined the Schofield staff in 2007 as an eighth-grade social studies teacher.
“I wanted to be a positive role model and try to be that voice for them,” McDowell said. “They can come and talk to me. I won’t be overcritical and can lead them to what is right and wrong.”
He enjoys and sees the value of social studies for young students. It’s important that they understand the effects of past events and how they remain relevant and should not be repeated, McDowell said.
Third-year teacher Paine, a native and resident of Augusta, was taught by her mother in the sixth grade – the grade Paine now teaches herself.
“My mother was mean to me,” she said with a smile, “but that was good as I made friends. If she had been really nice to me, that wouldn’t have turned out very well.”
Still, she often experienced problems in middle school. Other than her mother, another teacher also invested time in Paine. That meant a lot to her, and by her sophomore year as an education major at Augusta State University, she had gravitated toward teaching middle school.
Grades six through eight “are a huge transition,” Paine said. “It’s terrifying for sixth-graders. I’m not holding their hands, but we go through things step by step so they can become more independent by seventh grade.”
She and McDowell were surprised and honored by the recognition from other faculty members. Paine expressed her appreciation to so many teachers who have supported her from the start of her career.