KERSHAW COUNTY, SC — Brian Leininger recalls growing up in the Exeter Township public school district in Reading, Pa., and hearing about the at-risk students in many of his classes.
“These kids weren’t expected to achieve their potential and I can’t remember having any of them in the advanced courses that I was lucky enough to have been assigned,” he said. “Some of these labeled students were my friends.”
It was during an introductory education course at Penn State that he was exposed to some students who showed strong resemblances to many of his at-risk friends.
“I decided then and there that I would pursue a degree in education in the hopes that I could reach out and unlock the same potential in my future students that I knew resided in so many of the youth that sat before me and reminded me of those in the past,” Leininger said.
The North Central Middle School social studies teacher is still reaching out and has been named the 2013 Kershaw County School District Teacher of the Year.
“My primary goal as an educator is to impact every student that walks into my classroom,” Leininger said. “This means nurturing interests that may not fall in my area of study, in the hope that every student will follow a path from my classroom that will eventually lead to a high school stage in their senior year with a diploma in their hand.”
Leininger said the greatest challenge faced by educators is the inability of many students to recognize the need for hard work.
“In an age of instant gratification, so many students expect an immediate payoff for their contribution to the class, assignment or subject area,” he said.
To help combat that thinking, he said he makes it a priority to get to know all of his students in addition to their learning styles.
“Recognizing their learning styles is just a starting point,” he said. “I want to be able to focus on the type of person my student is beyond the classroom setting and help them to reach their greatest potential.”
Leininger began his teaching career at North Central Middle five years ago. Principal Burch Richardson described him as a “a caring and enthusiastic teacher who inspires his students to achieve at the highest levels.”
“His creative spirit, along with his commitment to his students, enables him to have the respect of his students, their parents and his colleagues,” Richardson said.
Leininger received a bachelor’s of science degree from Penn State University and a master’s degree in education from Columbia College.
Honoring conservation efforts
Catawba Trail Elementary School principal Denise Barth has been named Richland County’s 2013 Conservation Principal of the Year by the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District.
The award recognizes an administrator with an outstanding commitment to conservation education.
Barth is credited with helping construct a nature trail and wildlife garden at the school while helping create re-use and recycle programs, composters and a staffed science lab where students raise chicks, ducks and earthworms.
“Ms. Barth is truly a principal who embraces conservation,” said Catawba Trail teacher Vikki Pasco, who was named the South Carolina Association of Conservation District’s 2012 Teacher of the Year.
Barth will be recognized at the Richland Soil and Water Conservation District banquet later this month.