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In June, the South Carolina's STEM Educator of the Year finalists and winners from the past three years met to discuss how they might work together, to positively impact STEM instruction across the state. Much of their conversation reflected on the 2020-2021 school year, sharing challenges, celebrating success, and discussing how they might use the lessons learned in the coming year.

Remember Your Why
"Teaching is not a profession; it's a passion. Without passion for your subject and a desire for your students to learn and be the best in the world, then we have failed as a teacher and failure is not an option." - John F. Podojil

Don't lose sight of your "why". Whether you are a novice or veteran teacher, this year may have called into question why you teach. As you find ways to rest and renew yourself this summer, take some time to remember your "why", what is it about teaching that gets you excited and inspires you. What have been some of your favorite moments in teaching?
  • Chris Beyerle, Fisher Middle School, 2020 Finalist, describes his passion as seeing students get excited about what they learn and take that learning to places he hadn't even thought possible. "When that happens, those are awesome teaching moments."
  • Kirstin Bullington, Richland Two Institute of Innovation, 2020 Finalist, loves to stand back and allow students to see the relevance and solve actual problems they identify, that they are passionate about. "It's powerful to see students move a problem from advocacy to implementation."
  • Nichole Yemothy, R.H. Gettys Middle School, 2021 Finalist, "bringing science to life is my passion.”  Nichole strives to quash the comment, “I'll never use this again,” by making connections between knowledge learned and real-life application.
  • Dee Marshall, Wacamaw Intermediate School, 2020 Finalist, spoke to helping students discover that they have it in them to learn and think critically. "I get so excited when students start learning how to figure problems out for themselves."
  • Susan Mathews, Richland Northeast High School, 2021 Finalist, finds her passion in demonstrating learning as a life-long, meaningful experience.
  • Jeff Young, Woodland Heights Elementary School, 2019 Finalist, is passionate about recognizing the impact a STEM job may have on a student's future. "I work in Title 1 schools and recognize that if a student gets a STEM job, it not only changes their life but the lives of the entire family."
Once you have identified your passion, write it down somewhere you can see when you need a quick reminder on a tough day – use it as your phone or computer screen saver, affix a sticky note in your car or above your classroom door. 
Challenge yourself to stay centered on your "why".

Overcoming Challenges
"Because some people see a wall and assume that's the end of their journey. Others see it and decide it's just the beginning."– Angeline Trevena

Our STEM Teacher Leaders agreed there was no shortage of challenges this past year. Most faced common struggles, how to engage students, how to teach in-person and virtually simultaneously, how to do "hands-on" activities, identifying quality online resources, and collaborating with students and colleagues in a virtual setting. Each spoke about the need to be creative and adapt, accepting there would be successes and failures. All acknowledged that through creativity and innovation, two of the world-class skills found in the South Carolina Profile of a graduate, they experienced growth in ways they could not have imagined. 
Consider the challenges you faced in this past year, how did you overcome those challenges, and, in what ways did you grow? Write them down. Celebrate what you have accomplished.

Advice to Yourself
"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." — Barack Obama

What changes or adjustments do you need to make this year? What will be your mindset? When asked what advice you would give yourself for 2021-2022, our STEM Educators of the Year responded - 
  • "If I can successfully survive teaching in a pandemic, I can survive anything." - Amy Baldwin, Oakbrook Middle School, 2021 STEM Educator of the Year
  • "Just breath." -Tracy Elmore, Lugoff -Elgin Middle School, 2020 STEM Educator of the Year
  • "Less is more." - Warren Wise, Kelly Mill Med Pro Middle, 2019 STEM Educator of the Year
Consider your why and how you have approached and overcome obstacles. What advice will you give to yourself as you begin a new year? Embrace the challenges, celebrate your growth, and accomplish great things in the coming year!

As always, if we can help support you or your goals in any way, contact us.

Special thanks to our South Carolina’s STEM Teacher Leader Cohort who contributed to this article.
  • Amy Baldwin, Oakbrook Middle School, Dorchester District Two
  • Chris Beyerle, Fisher Middle School, Greenville County School District
  • Kirstin Bullington, Richland Two Institute of Innovation, Richland School District Two
  • Tracy Elmore, Lugoff -Elgin Middle School, Kershaw County School District
  • Dee Marshall, Wacamaw Intermediate School, Georgetown County School District
  • Beth Martin, Sanders Middle SchoolLaurens County School District 55
  • Susan Mathews, Richland Northeast High School, Richland School District Two
  • Warren Wise, Kelly Mill Med Pro Middle, Richland School District Two
  • Nicole Yemothy, R.H. Gettys Middle School, Pickens County School District
  • Jeffrey Young, Woodland Heights Elementary School, Spartanburg School District Six

Have a wonderful summer break! 🌞

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