Plain Elementary fourth-grade teacher Suzanne Billings is Greenville County’s Teacher of the Year.
Billings, who has 18 years of teaching experience, will now compete for state Teacher of the Year honors.
First runner-up is Anjosia Ellerbe, business education teacher at Wade Hampton High School. Second runner-up is Erin Rigot, a communications teacher at League Academy. Ashley Jenkins, a 10th grade world history teacher at Woodmont High School, was named third runner-up.
Billings’ daily mantra is Imagine. Create. Inspire.
“Teaching is imagining the purpose of the knowledge, creating an understanding and desire to utilize this information, and then applying and inspiring uses for new learning,” she wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. “My reward in teaching is observing students who image, create, and inspire for themselves, not just for a teacher or parent.”
Billings said seeing her father, a basketball and softball coach, implement mentoring skills in sports and focus on not just improving physical skills but also developing both character and self-confidence led her to become a teacher.
She realized the breadth of his influence when one of her teammates wrote her college essay about Billings’ father. “She said my dad made the most significant impact on her personal development,” Billings wrote. “I knew I wanted to be like my dad and inspire others to achieve their best and positively impact their personal growth and success.”
Billings creates a positive, inclusive classroom community. “I ensure each student views him or herself as a speaker, listener, teacher, and supporter,” she said. “This community team environment instills ownership of learning and allows each student’s talents and abilities to shine.”
Other Greenville County Teacher of the Year finalists were Scott Buhr, physics and earth science, Hillcrest High School; Jeremy Bowen, mathematics, J.L. Mann; David Dejesa, social studies-speech and debate, Riverside High School; Chancey Greco, sixth-grade English Language Arts, Greenville Middle Academy; Lauren Long, eighth-grade English, Hillcrest Middle School; and Thomas McAuliff, third grade, Taylors Elementary School.
In addition to an application and an interview, the 10 finalists were observed in the classroom by the judges.
Katie Inclan, a second-grade teacher at Plain Elementary, was named the elementary-level Emerging Teacher of the Year.
Greenville Middle Academy seventh-grade science teacher Matt Giacalone is secondary-level Emerging Teacher of the Year.
The Emerging Teacher of the Year awards are sponsored by Greenville Federal Credit Union and recognize second- or third-year teachers for outstanding performance. Each receives $500, a crystal award, and $500 for their school.