Upstate educator named SC's Teacher of the Year, gets bonus and BMW for a year

Jeffrey Maxey was named the 2019 South Carolina Teacher of the Year on Wednesday night.

The announcement was made by Molly Spearman, the State Superintendent of Education.

Maxey is a special education resource teacher at Starr Elementary School in Anderson School District Three.

"What an extremely humbling experience being in a room with so many incredible educators," Maxey said after accepting the award.

Maxey was announced as the winner at a ceremony at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

"Jeff exhibits the qualities and characteristics that we want to see in every current and future South Carolina educator. He is so deserving of this tremendous honor, and I know he will do a fantastic job advocating and representing our over 50,000 teachers this next year," Spearman said in a news release.

Along with the distinction, he was awarded $25,000 and provided a new BMW vehicle for one year while serving as a roving ambassador to educators across the state.

In addition to teaching special education, Maxey serves as the Special Education Department Head, District Teacher Trainer, District Evaluator, and a Master Teacher Mentor.

Maxey originally pursued a career as a minister, and while serving in that role, he pastored a funeral for a young student. Afterward, he received an invitation to visit the classrooms of the student’s senior class to help them understand their loss. It was during this experience that he became inspired to become a teacher.

“I desire to impact the lives of students with special needs," Maxey said. "Like creative puzzles or multifaceted games, each student has many intricate designs within. My goal is to help them discover what is inside, then let it out.”

This desire put him on a path to teach inner-city middle school students, then to North Africa for eight years to teach educators as the National Director of Education and Training for a nongovernment organization, and finally to South Carolina.

The other Teacher of the Year finalists included:

  • Nicholas Snyder, Berkeley County School District
  • Robert Harris, Richland County School District One
  • Zachariah Lowe, Sumter County School District
  • Susan Snyder, York School District Three (Rock Hill)

Harris, the Richland County School District One Teacher of the Year, has taught family and consumer sciences at Hand Middle School for four years.

He has encouraged innovation and business-minded thinking among his students. One of his recent class projects was a mock restaurant that allowed his students to collaborate with local restaurant managers, business owners and bank officials.

Harris also is one of the founders of Profound Gentleman Recruitment Day, a statewide effort to encourage more African-American men to become teachers.

Harris is a product of the Richland 1 school district he now teaches in. He graduated from Lower Richland High School in 2006.