Two Upstate Teachers Finalists

SC Teacher of the Year

Lee Rogers
March 14, 2019 - 10:50 am

ID 123934468 © Littleny |


Two upstate teachers have been named as finalists for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year annual award.  The Superintendent of Education made unannounced visits to schools in Greenville and Anderson county to notify the finalists.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman surprised Travelers Rest High School teacher, Shelley Smith, at her school today with news that she has been selected as one of five finalists for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year award.   

South Carolina Department of Education

“Shelley gives selflessly of her time and energy to ensure that every one of her students are prepared to be productive citizens and lifelong learners,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “She is a model educator and her work is inspiring our young people to follow in her footsteps.”

Shelley Smith is an eleventh through twelfth grade Social Studies teacher at Travelers Rest High School in Greenville County Schools. Shelley is a Master Teacher for the Teacher Residency Program at Clemson University and she received a nomination for the Gilder Lehram Institute of American History’s National History Teacher of the Year award. 

“Not only is Shelley a stellar teacher, she is recognized as a leader in our district and is an incredibly effective advocate for the profession," said Greenville County School superintendent Dr. Burke Royster. "Currently serving as mentor for two teacher residents as part of Clemson’s Master Teacher Residency Program, Shelley is dedicated to the teaching profession and committed to positively impacting the next generation of teachers.”

At eight years old, she knew she wanted to become a teacher. She recognized the difference each of her own teachers made in her life and wanted to become a difference-maker herself. Shelley aspires to model service to others in a multitude of ways. Building floats for homecoming week, volunteering to attend a shift at prom, mentoring and supervising student teachers, leading innovative professional development, or writing district curriculum is how she gives to her school community. Her goal is to teach every student how to overcome challenges in the face of adversity. This begins in her classroom where she makes a point to establish a positive learning environment and chooses instructional methods to support student learning across disciplines, fostering international-mindedness and encouraging the development of self-awareness. 

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman surprised Wren High School teacher, Tamara Cox, at her school today with news that she has been selected as one of five finalists for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year award.   

SC Department of Education

“Tamara is a shining star not only in her local community but across our state,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. “She is an unwavering advocate for her students, libraries, and the entire media specialist profession.”

Tamara Cox is a Media Specialist at Wren High School in Anderson School District One. She is a National Board Certified educator, the 2019-2020 South Carolina Association of School Librarians "Librarian of the Year", and the recipient of the American Library Association 2018 I Love My Librarian Award. Tamara regularly attends National Library Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. where she uses her teacher voice to advocate for public education and library funding. She originally began as a Social Studies teacher, but left the profession to pursue a corporate career, until she was drawn back to education. A choice that positively changed her life forever. 

"We are thrilled that Mrs. Cox is being recognized by our state as one of the best," said Anderson One Superintendent Robbie Binnicker. "We have known this for a long time! Her passion and love for education have had a profound impact on the students and staff at Wren High School and all of Anderson School District One."

Ms. Cox believes stories have the power to “connect us as human beings, enlighten and empower us to change, both ourselves and our society.” She uses her library to help students practice critical thinking, ethical use of information, and interpersonal skills with group projects. Collaborating with her fellow teachers and administration, she works to meet the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate by increasing the global perspective of her students; connecting them with authors and experts, in-person and virtually. 

As two of five finalists, Shelly and Tamara will each receive $10,000 and go on to the next stage of competition which involves an in-person interview with a team of expert judges. The South Carolina Teacher of the Year Gala will be held on May 8th in Columbia where the overall winner will be announced. 
The winner receives a total of $25,000 and is provided with a brand new BMW to use while serving for one year as a roving ambassador providing mentoring, attending speaking engagements, working with teacher cadets and teaching fellows, leading the State Teacher Forum, and serving as the state spokesperson for over 50,000 educators. 

The Teacher of the Year program celebrates excellence and strengthens the teaching force by honoring and recognizing exceptional teachers on the district, state, and national level. The Teacher of the Year Awards not only assist in retention efforts but serve as a powerful recruitment tool to the educator profession. 

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