What inspired you to choose teaching as a career?
Even from a young age, I can remember playing school with some of my baby dolls. I think I may have even had an imaginary student a time or two, but as far back as I can remember I've always wanted to become a teacher. Of course there were influential factors that helped make this dream become a reality.
The greatest inspiration was my family. I grew up in a family of educators - my father, grandmother, aunts, uncles and even cousins were educators. As I went through school, I was able to see first hand what teaching was about.
Another inspiration was some of the awesome teachers that I had while in school. I had many wonderful teachers, but there were just a handful that I truly connected with in such a way that made a huge impact on my life. It is these teachers that I strive to be more like with my own students.
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If you were not an educator, what would you like to do for a living?
When I reflect on and ponder about my life, education plays such a huge role. I can't imagine my life without teaching, so if I were not an educator then I would have to find a living that would allow me to interact and communicate with people so that we could learn things from one another without having the title - educator.
What one thing have you borrowed from your favorite teacher that you use in your classroom?
I have borrowed lots of things from wonderful teachers that I have had the pleasure of teaching, but I would have to say that my students and I enjoy every year having a "pumpkin seed spitting contest." Not only is it a great fall activity, but more importantly it gets the students excited about measurement.
My first few years of teaching I was fortunate to be able to teach with some phenomenal teachers that had one common goal: Excite yet care for your students. I never heard this verbally, but for me it was evident through their teaching. I loved to just watch these teachers. It was amazing for me to see how creative and original their talents were.
One of these creative ideas was in fact a "pumpkin seed spitting contest." The students loved it. After measuring their distances, they took their measurements and created a line plot and found the landmarks. I remember thinking to myself that I would try the activity the next year and I did - and I'm still doing the activity today. Each year, each group of students seems to enjoy this activity even more.
Describe how you learned you were named Teacher of the Year in your district, and how you celebrated.
I learned that I was District Teacher of the Year while standing on the stage of our District's Fine Arts Center along with three other wonderful teachers and an audience made up of our entire district's faculty and staff. What a shock to hear my name announced.
I celebrated with my two boys and husband over a dish of lasagna. During our dinner, we heard a noise emerge from our front door, and when looking to see what it was - some of my wonderful colleagues were nice enough to decorate my front yard with the finest paper they could find. As my 3-year-old put it: "Oh mama, don't you like it. It looks like Christmas!"
What recognition did you receive for being named District Teacher of the Year?
I was recognized with a glass trophy, a plaque for my classroom and a gift certificate from our local Walgreens at our district meeting.
Our local newspaper and my church newsletter recognized me as well, not to mention all of the kind people in our community that have recognized me on a day-to-day basis.
What would your students say you are best known for?
After polling my 66 students, I had many responses to pick through and enjoy. I could say that my students thought I was known for teaching math or that I was funny and kind; some even said that I was fair and had a positive attitude.
However, I have to say that after hearing all of my students' answers, I found a little note placed in a chair after class. Thinking that it was trash I went to pick up, but as I opened it I found that it was not trash - it was a note from one of my students. It read, "You are best known for walking kids through and not pushing it on them when they do not understand." I enjoyed listening to all of my students, but this little note made my heart smile, because this is what I consciously work on daily.
I can remember not understanding things as a student while all of my classmates did. I always told myself that I would not let my students feel this way, and so for one of my students to "know" me as this means the world to me.
How do you see current economic conditions affecting your classroom, and how do you try to counteract that?
My classroom is fuller and supplies are not as plentiful, but we are making do with what we have.
What one item could you never do without in your classroom, and why?
Of course there are many things that I use daily and it's hard to imagine not having access to them, but if I had to choose one thing it would have to be my board or SMART board. Many students are visual learners, and without access of my board, I would be lost.
What has been your most memorable classroom moment over the past year?
There are so many memories made every day that it is hard to narrow them down to just one. Some of my most memorable moments are the conversations and interactions that I have had with my students. Sometimes these conversations don't necessarily pertain to the curriculum but rather connecting as a class.
For example, in talking with my students about this survey I asked them what I was known for. I had many that responded with kind, fair, funny, and then one student blurted out "stupid." I asked, "Stupid?" And he said, "Yea, you know all of the stupid stuff you do like dancing and singing." The entire class laughed and enjoyed the whole moment.
I love to find out who my students really are - what their likes and dislikes are as well as their quirks and qualms. Knowing and connecting with my students allows me to have memories that last for a lifetime.
If you are named a finalist for S.C. Teacher of the Year, who will be the first nonrelative you call?
This is a hard one. I think I'll call the teacher that carried me through my first year of teaching. Without her, I never would have made it.
MARY CLARE PRICE
School: Batesburg-Leesville Elementary
Subject: Fifth-grade mathematics
Years at Batesburg-Leesville Elementary: 5
Years as an educator: 8
Family: Married to Brett Price; two sons, Cole, 3, and Nate, 1
Academic credentials: Batesburg-Leesville High graduate; bachelor's in elementary education, Columbia College; master's in literacy, Lesley University