Hand Middle School mathematics teacher Jennifer Wise was named South Carolina Teacher of the Year on Wednesday.
She was chosen from among five finalists, a group that featured three Midlands educators.
Her selection was announced by State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman at a banquet at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.
“I am proud of all our finalists and district teachers of the year and just thrilled for Jennifer and Richland One,” Spearman said.
Wise receives $25,000 and drives a new BMW for a year while serving as an advocate for teachers.
The other nominees included Lexington High School mathematics teacher Sheryn Billue and Fulmer Middle School social studies teacher Sabrina Williams.
Wise tutored fellow students in high school after deciding to become a teacher.
Spearman lauded Wise for helping students understand the role mathematics plays in solving everyday problems in announcing her as a finalist last month.
Her classroom feels like home, Wise said after being named Richland 1 teacher of the year.
“It is undoubtedly where I belong,” the algebra and geometry teacher told The State newspaper. “I get a surge of excitement when a student tells me about a mathematical anomaly he or she has found, like a hamburger for 99 cents.”
Wise’s educational philosophy is built on a foundation of lifelong learning and motivation.
“I never have the desire to be that OK math teacher a student had one year,” said Wise, who teaches seventh and eighth grades. “I want to leave a mark. And each day, I build my legacy — a legacy that tells my students someone cares, someone forgives and math is a blast.”
The challenges, she said, fuel her desire to serve students.
“I get a wave of pride that, literally, brings tears to my eyes when a hard-fought problem is solved by a determined student,” Wise said. “My daily rewards far outweigh any hardship I could encounter.”
Fellow mathematics teacher Jude Barrineau lauded Wise for enthusiasm, calling her high expectations, innovative classroom environment and willingness to work with students outside the classroom among her strong points.
Wise has taught at Hand for eight years after graduating from the University of South Carolina.
Wise has served in a number of leadership roles, including serving on the Mathematics Standard Review Board, School Wellness Council, and as a Professional Learning Community Facilitator.
Previous Midlands winners
Jennifer Wise became the 15th South Carolina Teacher of the year from Richland, Lexington and Kershaw counties since the award was first given in 1956. Recent winners include:
2008: Ann Marie Taylor of Kershaw County
2007: Jennifer (Buffy) Murphy of Lexington-Richland 5
2005: Linda (Cookie) Winburn of Richland 2
2003: Christi W. McCollum of Richland 2
2002: Traci Young Cooper of Richland 1
2001: Christa Compton of Richland 2
2000: Mary Hamilton Lostetter of Kershaw County