Spartanburg, S.C. -- The School of Education at the University of South Carolina Upstate has long been recognized for its outstanding teacher preparation programs whose graduates are excellent, learner-centered practitioners and reflective professionals. University graduates are eagerly sought by Upstate school districts as new hires. So it’s no wonder that five of the seven individuals selected by the Spartanburg County School District as the Teachers of the Year for the 2005-2006 school year are USC Upstate graduates.
They include: Teacher of the Year for District 1 is Tasha Thomas, Class of 1996. She teaches freshman English at Chapman High School. Teacher of the Year for District 2 is Carol Powell, Class of 1979. She teaches ninth-grade world geography at Chesnee High School. Teacher of the Year for District 3 is Lorraine Moore, Class of 1991. She teaches third grade math at Cowpens Elementary School. Teacher of the Year for District 4 is Jennifer Lassiter, Class of 1996. She teaches sixth grade language arts teacher at Woodruff Middle School. Teacher of the Year for District 6 is Thomas Webster, Class of 1994. He is a science coach at Lone Oak Elementary School.
Tasha Thomas graduated USC Upstate magna cum laude, with a near perfect 4.0 grade point average. She credits the knowledge she gained in education and English classes and the commitment of her professors as the reason for her long-term career success.
“I loved that they challenged my without restraint and pushed me to go above and beyond what I viewed as acceptable,” Thomas said. “I also learned to never stop striving for excellence, but to laugh at myself in certain situations. I was also held responsible for my own success on a level that many teachers today do not require.”
While a student at USC Upstate Carol Powell participated in the work/study program at the University’s Child Development Center, which gave her first-hand experience of working with small children. She graduated cum laude and worked for three years as a day care director. The opportunity to teach psychology and French at Chesnee High School presented itself and Powell immediately fell in love with teaching and hasn’t left the classroom since. She now teaches world geography and directs the Service Learning / Internship Program.
“Many of my professors at USC Upstate impacted my life,” said Powell. “Carol Smith taught adolescent psychology with such enthusiasm that I found myself considering teaching as a career.”
Lorraine Moore’s favorite subjects in school were reading and writing and she readily admits that she was never excelled as a math student. She was teaching fifth grade and felt that math was her weakest subject as a teacher when she returned to USC Upstate to earn her master’s degree. She says the math courses she took at USC Upstate truly transformed her math classroom and gave her confidence in teaching it and instilled a desire to continually improve upon her performance in the classroom.
“I think my evolution and growth as a professional has been my biggest accomplishment,” said Moore. “I consciously work at making a specific change for the better each year – whether it be how I teach writing, classroom management skills, helping students have a good attitude about math – wherever I know there is the biggest need in my professional life. My goal is to always be a better teacher than I was the year before.”
Jennifer Lassiter credits her professors at USC Upstate with making the information she studied applicable to real life, meaning that she received lots of hands-on experience and constructive criticism. Her love of adolescent literature and writing grew while she was a student. That coupled with the opportunity to work in the Writing Center provided Lassiter with her first taste of teaching and she loved it. She also credits the faculty’s desire to see their students succeed and their belief in the students as her desire to inspire students every day.
“I show every child who steps into my classroom that he or she can succeed,” said Lassiter. “I encourage every child to work hard and dream big, really big. Then I teach them everything I can to help them reach their goals. I let them know that this journey into reading and writing is one we can take together, and we can learn from each other because the best kind of learning is lifelong learning. Students leave my classroom with a genuine desire to read and write and a love of learning. My students are my greatest accomplishment.”
Thomas Webster, who now is a science coach for kindergarten through eighth grade in Spartanburg County School District 6, greatly values the skills he acquired and the opportunities that came his way while a student at USC Upstate. Although he never imagine a career in public speaking, he now readily admits that the lessons he learned in his public speaking class are used on a weekly, if not daily, basis as he works with teachers to assess science lesson plans and evaluate teaching methods and plans. His role as the fiction editor of the creative writing publication also prepared him to look critically at other people’s materials and be able to discern how it needs to be improved. These skills also lead to him being named the 2005 winner of the S.C. Fiction Project and the runner-up in the 2005 Hub City Creative Writing Prize in the essay category.
“My career in education has certainly been fulfilling,” said Webster. “The work ethic that was required at USC Upstate in order to be a successful student has been applicable to me as a teacher. The ability to juggle many different tasks with ease and efficiency has carried over into my professional life.”
Although all five of the Teachers of the Year have various teaching backgrounds and have taken different career paths, there is one common thread among them all. They each credit the program and the faculty members at USC Upstate for enabling them to become outstanding professionals in the classroom.
According to Dr. Charles Love, dean of the School of Education at USC Upstate, the graduates are well-prepared due to the fact that 100 percent of his faculty have prior public school experience and maintain current working relationships with the school systems and teachers.
“The USC Upstate School of Education programs align with the principles of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards,” said Dr. Charles Love, dean of the School of Education. “It speaks well of the caliber of graduates that USC Upstate produces. When they graduate, they have knowledge of cutting edge practices in schools and are very prepared due to their exposure to practices during clinical and practicum experiences.”
The School of Education at USC Upstate was recognized earlier this year for its exemplary practices by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), which is the premier professional accrediting agency for teacher preparation programs across the country according to the U.S. Department of Education.
For more information, contact Dr. Charles Love, dean of the School of Education, at (864) 503-5577 or visit www.uscupstate.edu