Lugoff teacher a finalist for state honor

A fourth-grade teacher at Lugoff Elementary is one of five finalists for S.C. Teacher of the Year, S.C. Department of Education officials announced Monday.

Melody Johnson, who has been an educator for 15 years, four of them at the Kershaw County school, was the only selection from the Midlands.

Other finalists include Kelly Nalley, a Spanish teacher at Fork Shoals School, Greenville County; Julia Goodman Marshall, a fifth-grade teacher at Oakdale Elementary in Rock Hill; Samantha Maddox, an English/language arts teacher at Spartanburg High; and Olivia "Libby" Ortmann, a sixth- through eighth-grade teacher at Alice Drive Middle in Sumter.

Finalists will go through another round of interviews with a selection committee, with the winner to be announced April 28.

The winner will represent South Carolina in the National Teacher of the Year competition.

Johnson was recognized for creating a classroom environment that models a family. Among her activities, according to the Kershaw County school district:

- Her family hosts a kickball game before school starts so students can get to know her and feel comfortable around their classmates.

- Her students meet weekly to compliment each other, and they keep an Encouragement Wall.

- They apply and interview for class jobs, receive Green Bucks incentives as rewards and visit a class store to spend their money.

Johnson received bachelor's and master's degrees from Furman University.

The S.C. Teacher of the Year receives $25,000 and a BMW X5 48I to use for a year. The winner also participates in a one-year residency program at the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement, gets involved in Leadership South Carolina and attends Notre Dame's three-day Excellence in Teaching Symposium.

The four remaining finalists will receive $10,000 each.

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