CCSD Recognizes 2019 Rookie Teachers of the Year

Charleston County School District 2018-19 Rookie Teachers of the Year represent the best of the best first-year teachers. After being selected by the schools, the rookies wrote essays in which they described the ways that they meet the needs of their students and their students’ families.

Each nominated Rookie’s principal described the nominee’s instructional skills, professionalism and ways the nominee develops classroom engagement. The Rookie’s mentor highlighted the nominee’s instructional skills and development of relationships that impact student learning and success.

These applications were rated by a team of veteran educators who had the difficult job of finding the top Rookie Teachers of the Year in early childhood, upper elementary, middle and high schools.

The following teachers embrace Charleston County School District’s vision for teaching and truly exemplify the best of our profession.

Alexandra (Lexi) Sirinakis

Alexandra (Lexi) Sirinakis from Carolina Park Elementary is the 2018-19 early childhood Rookie Teacher of the Year. With an undergraduate degree in fine arts from Slippery Rock University and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from College of Charleston, Alexandra aims to teach first grade by providing a “well-prepared, stimulating environment that allows children the opportunity to work through their own experiences and to encourage social-development.”

In his letter of recommendation for Alex, her principal, Michael Antonelli, says, “I have served as a principal in CCSD for 13 years and Lexi Sirinakis is the most impressive induction teacher with whom I have had the privilege to work. Her knowledge of instructional best practices is that of a veteran educator and the classroom community and culture that exist in room 162 is a model to others in our profession.”

Mentor Carol Cook wrote, “Through modeling problem-solving and allowing productive struggle, Lexi has created an optimal learning environment for inquiry and problem based learning.”

Bria Barnhill

Sanders-Clyde Elementary is the professional home of Bria Barnhill the 2018-19 upper elementary Rookie Teacher of the Year. Bria graduated from the College of Charleston with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Her goal as a fifth grade teacher this year is to have everyone of her students “leave my classroom a better person, a harder worker and [with] a bigger heart.”

“Ms. Barnhill is a great induction teacher. She has really embraced this profession and made it her own,” says her principal, Janice Malone. “Her high energy is captivating and really draws the students into the learning. It’s amazing!”

Kiyanna Mullins, Bria’s mentor says that Bria, “is an excellent educator that possesses instructional enthusiasm and creativity, a passion for her students, and professionalism…She challenges

Rachel Irwin

Seventh grade resource teacher Rachel Irwin is the 2018-19 middle school Rookie Teacher of the Year. Rachel says, “by incorporating creative thinking, open-ended questions, and cooperative learning,” she is able to “provide an environment where my scholars are more likely to express their ideas, think outside the box, and challenge problems with innovative solutions.” Rachel graduated from Robert Morris University with degrees in Early Childhood and Special Education K-12.

Principal Stephanie Flock writes of Rachel, “I have witnessed major academic changes in the scholars she works with, truly transformational changes…I look forward to being around her as she blossoms into a master teacher.”

In her letter of recommendation, mentor Octavia Smith writes, “Observing her teach was a rewarding experience for me as well. I got a chance to take back some ideas to use in my own classroom…She even showed me some things I can use to help my struggling scholars.”

Theresa Culbertson

St. Johns High School’s Theresa Culbertson, a science teacher, is the 2018-19 high school Rookie Teacher of the Year. Theresa, who earned a BS in Biology from Shorter University, entered this year knowing that, “Building relationships would be the first and foremost strategy to provide a quality education for all of my students.”

“Within minutes of her first class, it was clear that I had hired a master teacher. Her infectious energy and ability to engage her students at their level resulted in a classroom environment unlike any I have ever seen” says her principal, Stephen Larson.

Theresa’s mentor, Neltie Husted, described Theresa as, “She is high energy, high expectations, and highly effective when it comes to motivating students and forcing them to realize their own potential…She has created a classroom culture in which every student can be successful.”

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