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5 finalists named for Aiken County Teacher of the Year

Posted: April 20, 2016 - 12:58am
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Kathy Linton - East Aiken School of the Arts
Kathy Linton - East Aiken School of the Arts

Aiken County Superinten­dent Sean Alford presented coach Kathy Linton with a bouquet of balloons Tuesday and some exciting information: She had been selected as a member of the district’s Teacher of the Year Honor Court.

“We have about 1,500 teachers, and Ms. Linton is one of the final five that will have the chance to be named our District Teacher of the Year,” Alford said, according to a news release from the school district.

Linton is a physical education instructor at East Aiken School of the Arts. Other Honor Court members are South Aiken High science teacher Lisa Colquitt, Hammond Hill Elementary fourth-grade teacher Carrie Clark, Paul Knox Middle School eighth-grade science teacher Amanda Burnside, and North Augusta High English/language arts teacher Elizabeth Hardy.

One will be named the district’s Teacher of the Year at an event April 25.

Here’s a closer look at the finalists:

Lisa Colquitt – South Aiken High School

Colquitt feels that her biggest contributions and accomplishments involve exposing her students to “real-world skills and purposeful, authentic science.”

She says she makes sure to include and encourage exercises for her classes that enhance critical thinking and meaningful collaboration with others.

Martha Messick, an assistant principal at South Aiken, says in many ways Colquitt is an ideal teacher.

“Lisa is a team player,” Messick said. “She roots for her kids, her freshman team, and her school. She is everything you could ask for in a teacher.”

Carrie Clark – Hammond Hill Elementary School

Student Carter Presnell doesn’t hold back in his praise for the fourth-grade teacher.

“She’s the best teacher in the world,” he said.

The daughter of an educator, Clark started her professional career in the business world after professing to friends and family that the classroom wasn’t for her. But she says she quickly
felt “something was missing.” She liked her job but didn’t love it.

Teaching filled that void, and she hasn’t looked back since.

“After seeing my mother on her last day at school and seeing all the hugs and high-fives, I knew that I wanted that – the ability to make a lasting difference in someone’s life,” she said.

Clark calls her profession a “work of heart.”

“It may sound silly, but it is oh so true,” she says.

Amanda Burnside – Paul Knox Middle School

Just after learning of her inclusion in the Honor Court, Burnside called her mother, Susan Davis, who is a math teacher at North Augusta High School and has long been a source of inspiration for her daughter’s passion for education.

“Having a mother as a teacher exposed me to the great triumphs and occasional disappointments in the classroom environment,” Burnside said. “Through all of those times, I recognized the profound impact that educators have on the lives of their students.”

One of Burnside’s contributions to her school is her work with its Future City team, which has won the South Carolina Regional Future City Competition the past two years and competed nationally. In the competition, students have to develop a city of the future based on a presented theme and using a number of variables.

These experiences are ones that my students will remember for the rest of their lives; helping to provide them with this type of opportunity is something that
I am very proud of,” Burnside said.

Her advice to students is simple: “Always work hard.”

Dr. Elisabeth Hardy – North Augusta High School

Although she has worked as a teacher for 23 years, being placed on this year’s Teacher of the Year Honor Court still brought tears to Hardy’s eyes. She brings an extraordinary dedication and passion to her classroom every day, according to colleagues at North Augusta High.

“We are blessed to have her,” Principal John Murphy said. “The impact she has had on our students is second to none.”

“Dr. Hardy has taught students at all learning levels, from at-risk students to the highest of achievers,” Assistant Principal Paige Day said. “She really has a heart for students that need her extra help.”

Hardy says she and many others like her are simply born to teach.

“Teachers are born, not made. I firmly believe this. Teachers do not teach for the accolades or the promise of riches and fame,” she said. “They find true success in those small moments where they motivate their students to move mountains, help them to see the world more clearly or understand a concept fully, help them learn to empathize with others, to articulate their beliefs and values with conviction, or to find contentment in knowledge and understanding rather than material things. The teachers who created those moments were the ones who had the greatest influence on my becoming the teacher I am today.”

Kathy Linton – East Aiken School of the Arts

Put simply, Linton is a difference-maker, a game-changer. But even that description doesn’t full cover her impact, Principal Lisa Fallaw said.

“This is a very well-deserved honor,” Fallaw said. “Kathy is really a jack-of-all-trades here at our school and she helps to hold our arts program together.”

Linton employs an “anything is possible” attitude that has served her students well throughout her
nearly two decades in the classroom.

She has starting programs at her school to help save wolves in Yellowstone National Park, emphasize the importance of character, and added a number of community service projects in an ongoing effort to instill in students the possibility of great achievement through individual dedication and teamwork.

“Very early in my career I made sure that my students and my school learned how being a team could make things better,” Linton said. “The behavior of our students changed, the attitudes of teachers changed, parents became more engaged, and we were on our way and we haven’t looked back.”

Even though many of her students are faced with the challenge of growing up in high-poverty environments, Linton maintains high standards and accepts nothing less than each student’s best effort in reaching to achieve their ultimate potential as individuals.

Part of that philosophy hinges on her belief that everyone has the ability to contribute and help others.

“My students learn that no matter their circumstances, there are always ways they can reach out and help others,” she said. “I believe that every student has the ability and desire to be the best that they can be, only needing the opportunity and motivation to reach for the stars. My goal in the classroom every day is to let students reap the rewards that stem from high expectations.”

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