Elizabeth Supan, an 21-year teaching veteran, swept away tears after becoming the new Aiken County School District Teacher of the Year at a banquet Monday.

Aiken County Teachers of Year since 2002

• 2011 – Uyen Griffis, Hammond Hill Elementary School

• 2010 – Nikki Mock, Hammond Hill Elementary School

• 2009 – Lisa Lader, Aiken High School

• 2008 – Gaye Pappas, Paul Knox Middle School

• 2007 – Robin Patterson, Hammond Hill Elementary School

• 2006 – Margo Gore, Kennedy Middle School

• 2005 – Art Lader, Aiken High School

• 2004 – Cathy Martin, Redcliffe Elementary School

• 2003 – Ann Poplin, South Aiken High School

• 2002 – Jason Fulmer, Redcliffe Elementary School; also S.C. Teacher of the Year and National Teacher of the Year finalist

A fourth-grade teacher at Aiken Elementary School, Supan will represent the district and the teaching profession over the next year.

She succeeds Lisa Raiford, the outgoing teacher of the year and a special education instructor at the Center for Innovative Learning at Pinecrest.

Earlier this year, Raiford was named one of five state Teacher of the Year finalists. That announcement will come at a banquet in Columbia Wednesday.

A total of 41 school-based teachers of the year were recognized at the event, held at the USC Aiken Convocation Center.

The district and Public Education Partners hosted the event with the support of 20 business sponsors.

Loretta Childress, a Greendale Elementary School reading interventionist, received the Champions Award from PEP for her contributions to the teaching profession.

She and Supan were among six finalists with the Honor Court.

The others were Tamara Butler, Hammond Hill Elementary School; Kathleen Langston, Redcliffe Elementary School; Amelia “Em” Ligon, Aiken High School; and Karey Santos, Millbrook Elementary School.

In earlier statements from the event program, Supan described education as the tool that enables young people to become successful.

“I believe that each student is a nurturing educational environment in which to grow intellectually as well as emotionally and socially, while being held to very high standards,” she said.

In remarks to the teachers and other guests, Dwayne Wilson, the Savannah River Nuclear Solutions president and CEO, congratulated all the teachers for their impact on young people. SRNS recently donated $75,000 in grants to 172 elementary and middle teachers in the CSRA – the large majority of them in Aiken County.

The Savannah River Site continues to have an enduring future, Wilson said. Yet teachers will be needed to prepare today's young people to fill the positions the Site will need.

The engagement of students is a crucial component in making a teacher outstanding, Raiford said. That does not come naturally, she said.

“It's not easy to go in and teach,” Raiford said. “It takes hard work, and I enjoy it.”

Supan received gifts from Jostens, Bridgestone and SRNS.

• Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro.