Jennifer Ainsworth, a moderate special needs teacher at Socastee High School, is one of five finalists in the running for S.C. Teacher of the Year, according to an announcement Tuesday from State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.
The winner will be announced at the annual Teacher of the Year gala April 23 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
“I’m so proud of these individuals and what they’ve accomplished as finalists for our annual Teacher of the Year award,” Zais said. “They have been chosen from among nearly 50,000 classroom teachers and are being recognized for their hard work and classroom achievements. Let’s applaud the difference they’re making in the lives of their students.”
The four other finalists are John “Jed” Dearybury, a second-grade teacher at Woodland Heights Elementary School, Spartanburg School District 6; Rhonda Hudak, a seventh-grade English language arts teacher at Rawlinson Road Middle School, Rock Hill School District 3; Patrick Kelly, a twelfth-grade Advanced Placement U.S. government and politics teacher at Blythewood High School, Richland School District 2; and Vivian “Beth” Tuten, a special education teacher at Swansea High School, Lexington School District 4.
The finalists were chosen by a panel of educators and private citizens, and the names of the teachers and their schools were concealed from the judges during the selection process. They will go to Columbia for personal interviews with a seven-member state selection committee.
The finalists were chosen from nominees representing 81 school districts, the S.C. School for the Deaf and the Blind, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Palmetto Unified School District and the S.C. Public Charter School District.
The winner will receive $25,000 and a new BMW to use for one year; in 2014-15 will participate in a one-year residency program at the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA); and will serve as a statewide ambassador for the profession. The 2014-15 Teacher of the Year will succeed first-grade teacher Darleen S. Sutton.
The other four finalists, known as Honor Roll teachers, will each receive $10,000. There will also be school district teachers of the year, and each of these educators will receive $1,000.
The annual gala is sponsored by S.C. Future Minds along with the S.C. Department of Education. This year’s keynote speaker is Major General Charles Frank Bolden Jr., USMC-Retired, NASA administrator and Columbia native.
The gala will feature the winner of the only statewide talent contest open to K-12 public school students, Comporium’s “This School’s Got Talent” online competition. All five finalists and school district winners will be honored by the S.C. General Assembly.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.