COLUMBIA, SC — Two Midlands teachers are among the finalists for South Carolina’s top teaching honor, the S.C. Department of Education announced Tuesday.
Patrick Kelly, a 12th grade Advanced Placement U.S. government and politics teacher at Richland 2’s Blythewood High, and Vivian “Beth” Tuten, a high school special education teacher at Lexington 4’s Swansea High, are among five finalists for the state Teacher of the Year. The others are Jennifer Ainsworth, a high school moderate special needs teacher at Socastee High, Horry County Schools; John “Jed” Dearybury, a second grade teacher at Woodland Heights Elementary, Spartanburg 6; and Rhonda Hudak, a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher at Rawlinson Road Middle School, Rock Hill 3.
The winner will be announced April 23 at a gala in Columbia.
The teachers were chosen from nominees representing 81 school districts, S.C. School for the Deaf and the Blind, Department of Juvenile Justice, Palmetto Unified School District and S.C. Public Charter School District.
“I’m so proud of these individuals and what they’ve accomplished as finalists for our annual teacher of the year award,” said Superintendent of Education Mick Zais. “They have been chosen from among nearly 50,000 classroom teachers and are being recognized for their hard work and classroom achievements.”
Kelly, of Blythewood High, has spent his entire career in Richland 2, according to the district. He has taught ninth and 12th grades and has directed many student service projects, among them efforts to help groups such as the Clark Sickle Cell Foundation, Harvest Hope Food Bank, the American Cancer Society and Daniel’s Music Foundation.
“I believe the final component of effective teaching is having a heart for students. This means caring about students beyond just their academic success; it means having a passion for students as individuals,” Kelly said.
Tuten, of Swansea High, has been teaching at the school since 2003, according to the district. She joined Lexington 4 in 1999. She was recognized in February as Educator of the Year for the S.C. Council for Exceptional Children.
“Ms. Tuten is one of our very best,” said Superintendent Linda Lavender. “Always a voice for young people, she is a leader, innovator, and dynamic educator. Her enthusiasm and compassion for young people is an inspiration for all who work with her, both in and out of school.
South Carolina’s Teacher of the Year will receive a $25,000 cash award and a new BMW to use for one year. During the 2014-15 school year, the winner 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 education. The other four finalists, known as Honor Roll teachers, will each receive $10,000.