COLUMBIA - Christi Wiggins McCollum, a fifth-grade teacher at Bookman Road Elementary School, was named South Carolina's Teacher of the Year on Friday night.
"Christi's students would tell you that she is not a typical teacher," said state education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum. "Real learning for real life is at the heart of what she does. She wants her students to be able to apply what has been learned in the classroom."
Ms. McCollum, who teaches in Richland School District Two, will take a yearlong sabbatical from the classroom to represent the state's 50,000 teachers. She will work with the South Carolina Center for Teacher Recruitment in Rock Hill and the state Teacher Forum, whose members are current district teachers of the year.
At an awards banquet on the grounds of the Governor's Mansion, she received $25,000 in cash, a laptop computer and a BMW Z-3 roadster to use for the year.
Each of the four finalists for the award received $10,000 and a laptop computer.
For the first time, the teacher of the year and the finalists all had the prestigious certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
"At the core of our education reform efforts is the professional development of teachers," Gov. Jim Hodges said. "Developing strong teachers is the surest way to advance student achievement."
Ms. McCollum is a proponent of character education and has helped other teachers from across the state integrate character education into the curriculum.
"I want my students to know that knowledge without goodness is wasted," she said. "We must also teach students how to resolve conflict peacefully and show tolerance for those who hold different views or who look or act differently from them."
Ms. McCollum earned a bachelor's degree in education from Winthrop University and is pursuing a master's degree in school administration at the University of South Carolina.