The SCEA member Leanna Rossi-Potter is a history teacher at Wando High School in Charleston County School District and local president of the Charleston County Education Association.
She values her teaching career as a means to give back to her community.
The challenges presented by the pandemic allowed Leanna the opportunity to reinvigorate her advocacy in the education community which, in turn, has led her to deepen an appreciation for her family of teachers.
The pandemic has taught her to advocate for and receive support from fellow educators that share similar experiences with her.
Leanna’s membership with The SCEA has amplified the voice that she has at both state and local levels.
“My hope ultimately is for teachers to find their voice in speaking up for their students and their profession as a whole, and I think that can happen. I think teachers are realizing they have a voice,” says Leanna.
“I am an educator because it matters for our society. Education and educators are the foundation for it all.”
The SCEA member and local president Elizabeth Humphrey is the school-level technologist at Robert E. Howard Middle School of the Orangeburg County School District and local president of the Orangeburg County Education Association.
Starting off as a seventh-grade science teacher, the pandemic called Elizabeth to her new school technologist position. Elizabeth has learned to become a better leader by helping teachers with technological learning and professional development through this transition.
She has also found leadership opportunities as a The SCEA local president in Orangeburg.
Through the pandemic, Elizabeth has successfully welcomed new members to the association in an effort to support educators through uniquely challenging times and build the power educators need to make the changes that students deserve.
“I AM AN EDUCATOR BECAUSE I LOVE WHAT I DO. I HAVE A PASSION FOR TEACHING STUDENTS; EDUCATION IS SOMETHING THAT I THINK EVERY CHILD SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO.”
The SCEA member Hayward Jean is the director of student services for the Orangeburg County School District and member of the Orangeburg County Education Association.
Hayward attributes his aspirations in education to his mother and his role in the Call Me Mister Program, which works to recruit, train, and certify African American males to become leaders and role models in South Carolina. Hayward believes that teachers should not merely be professional educators, but first-and-foremost they have responsibility as professional community leaders as well.
During his undergraduate career, Hayward discovered that, like the Call Me Mister Program, The SCEA saw their members as leaders first, then educators. He voices that “there is a word in community, and that’s ‘unity,’ and I believe in unity there is so much strength. In unity, you realize that what you don’t have, someone else has.” Through the pandemic, Hayward has turned towards unity in community to continue efforts to redefine and strengthen our education systems. “A lot of times a crisis doesn’t teach you, but rather pulls out of you what is already there. Then you have the opportunity to learn lessons from its challenges. What I learned, more than anything in the pandemic, is that we all need each other,” he says.
“I am an educator because I had a great educator growing up. That educator was my mom, and still is my mom.”
The SCEA member Pete Stone is an English teacher at Lewisville High School in Chester County School District and local president of the Chester County Education Association.
Pete believes that adversity he faced as an educator through the pandemic has crafted him into a stronger teacher; it helped him shift his perspective and gain new insight on his teaching tactics.
Pete compares his process of transitioning to virtual teaching to maneuvering a physical injury: “if you’re right-handed and you break your right hand, you have to learn to use your left arm.”
Similarly, Pete has been forced to get to know the ins and outs of the newly popularized virtual learning technology.
Pete has helped his students cope with the pandemic by reminding them of the purpose of education: self-empowerment and realization of potential. He has demonstrated this idea to his students by trying out a new hobby, himself: playing the banjo
His students’ resilience throughout the past academic year has only reinforced Pete’s confidence in this purpose.
His vision for The SCEA is for teachers to develop the strength to speak their perspectives to power in order to get a better look at what is needed in education. Doing so is not an act of rebellion, says Pete, but rather a step closer to a more successful society.
“I am an educator because I believe each person is a miracle full of unlimited potential and the real key of education is helping everyone realize they are their best teacher. Gaining that proper perspective is the best way to impact and change the world.”
The SCEA member Linda Douglass is a bus driver in the Summerville Education Association. On her forty-four-foot bus, Linda is not only an educator, but a life-skills trainer.
She and her co-workers have come together to continue their service to the community by finding creative solutions for the many roadblocks that the pandemic has presented on the bus. “It was a learning process, and we learn right along with our kids” says Linda. Getting to work earlier, encouraging kids to wear their masks, and brightening their day with song singing are all examples of this.
Linda describes one experience with a student who struggled to wear his mask: “One boy on my special needs route would not keep his mask on… one day he told me he was Batman. I searched and I found him a Batman mask. And guess what? He wears his mask now, because he’s Batman”. Linda clearly demonstrates her love for her children and her commitment to bettering the community through these acts of resiliency. In fact, she drove four extra routes before coming to her interview.
“I am an educator because I love my kids.”
The SCEA member Crystal Whitaker is a history teacher at Fairfield Central High School and member of the Fairfield County Education Association.
Crystal has felt a heightened sense of urgency as an educator through the pandemic. Many of her students have suffered both socially and emotionally from the lack of face-to-face learning and interaction. However, her students have shown resiliency, nonetheless.
Through the school year, Crystal has made extra efforts to reach out to her students and ensure their wellbeing. Weekly calls, anonymous surveys, and check-ins have allowed Crystal to warrant her students’ success through the past school year. “I’m proud of them” says Crystal.
Next year, Crystal looks forward to receiving high-fives at her door again, dressing up in her costumes coordinated with each history unit, and watching peers interact with one another and their teachers. Crystal believes that the future lies in the hands of her students and is committed to providing them with the resources that they need to leave school as compassionate and engaged members of the community.
“I am an educator because I know the future lies in the hands of the children.”
The SCEA member Dr. Clifford Lee is a Spanish teacher in the Greenville County Education Association.
Clifford recalls teachers’ obstacles that often go unseen while reflecting on challenges specific to him as an educator through the pandemic. Clifford states: “The social and emotional health of my students is just as important as the content that I teach, and having students physically distant makes it difficult to assure that for my students.” Dr. Lee described how his colleagues’ dedicated efforts and even more frequent sacrifices supported their students through the pandemic’s hardships. He has watched teachers give up their lunch breaks, stay after hours, and move well beyond the expectations of their jobs to provide extra support to the children that will make up our future generations.
Clifford has witnessed the transformation of his students through the pandemic first-hand, and is actively passionate about advocating for their success. His membership with The SCEA supports this pursuit of his: “You have to advocate for your students’ best interests. The people who make our education policies aren’t always themselves educators and not always keeping the students’ best interest at the front. The SCEA provides me the opportunity to amplify my voice and make sure that those people do at least have all the information that they need to make the best decisions.” Clifford’s membership has protected not only his journey through education, but his students’ educational endeavors as well.
“I am an educator because our children need adults in their lives that care about them.”