For the past 15 years of her 28-year career, Harvetta Havird has taught kindergarten at Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary-Middle School – and the Aiken County School District Teacher of the Year wouldn't have it any other way.

Jeff Powell, the executive director of Public Education Partners, also known as PEP, announced a surprised Havird as the winner at a banquet for all the School District's school-based teachers of the year on Monday.

“I don't know what else I would have done with my life,” she said. “I love my children ... and it's so rewarding to see a child who couldn't write his name and leave me as a reader and a writer.”

She strives to help her students – all 28 of them this year – become lifelong learners who love school.

Havird received prizes from several banquet sponsors, including PEP, as she begins the new role in which she will serve for the next year.

Havird will join the Teacher Forum – an advocacy group of the Honor Court, comprised of teachers from the current and new members.

Elizabeth Supan, the outgoing District Teacher of the Year – who will remain with the forum as its chair – has expressed her goal to bring in all school-based teachers of the year into the program.

In an emotional address to the teachers and guests, Supan described the joy she continues to experience as a teacher. The audience watched her slide show that included all her classes from the past two decades.

Another Honor Court finalist, LaRea Low of Clearwater Elementary School, was presented with the Champion's Award, along with $1,000 toward curriculum or professional development.

Low expressed her gratitude and promised to purchase new books for her children.

The other Honor Court members were Brandee Green, Aiken Elementary School; Kayla Hostetler, Ridge Spring-Monetta High School; and Dorna Redd, South Aiken High School.

Havird was delighted that Hostetler joined her on the Honor Court. In classic small county fashion, Havird's son had Hostetler among his teachers during his freshman year.

Havird expressed the support she has received from Principal Callie Herlong, who had been a third-grade teacher at the school several years earlier.

Several of Havird's colleagues also attended the banquet to cheer on their friend.

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 and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.