Originally created 09/21/04

Teacher finalists await results



AIKEN - After tonight, the wait for five finalists will be over when one is named the 2004-05 Aiken County Teacher of the Year.

One of the finalists, Bonnie Ryan, a retired nurse turned fifth-grade teacher, created a Science Day at Warrenville Elementary so pupils could hear about careers in the science field.

"She is impassioned with teaching and helping children to become the best they can be," said Joanne Skillman, the principal of Warrenville Elementary, of Mrs. Ryan. "She believes that every child can be reached and will try every day in her classroom to reach them."

The 2004-05 Teachers of the Year for each school were chosen by their peers in the spring.

A committee of educators and community members whittled the list of 40 teachers down to the five finalists.

The school winners will be honored at a dinner at 6:30 tonight at the City of Aiken Conference Center, and then the countywide Teacher of the Year will be announced.

The four other finalists are: Crissie Stephens, a third-grade teacher at J. D. Lever Elementary School; Catherine Martin, a second-grade teacher at Redcliffe Elementary School; Ginger Dunker, an English teacher at South Aiken High School; and Diane Roaden, a mathematics teacher at Silver Bluff High School.

The Teachers of the Year for each school are recognized for their enthusiasm and engaging pupils in learning beyond the normal book work, county school Superintendent Linda Eldridge said.

Mrs. Roaden, the Teacher of the Year finalist from Silver Bluff High School, said she has her students take photos of geometric shapes and bring them into class for extra credit.

"What inspires me every day is the students - their enthusiasm, their wit and their life and the excitement of them seeing new things," said Mrs. Roaden, who has been teaching math at Silver Bluff High since 1984.

She said the challenges of teaching have shifted during the past two decades as more parents expect their children to go to college.

"But I'm trying to make them realize that half the fun of continuing their life is for the sake of learning," Mrs. Roaden said.

"I try to teach them to set goals, and I try to incorporate that money is not the most important thing," she said

The finalists who are in the running for countywide teacher of the year were observed in the classroom and interviewed on how they teach.

One of the pupils' favorite activities in Mrs. Stephens' third-grade class at J.D. Lever Elementary School is making Happy-Grams - cards that are designed by the class and presented to other classes or individuals in the school to teach children about giving compliments.

"You learn as much from them as you teach them," the finalist said. "I'm always surprised. You never know what to expect."

Reach Karen Ethridge at (803) 648-1395, ext. 109, or karen.ethridge@augustachronicle.com.

Teacher of the Year

The Aiken County Teacher of the Year will be announced tonight and will advance to represent the Aiken County School District at the state level. Jason Fulmer, the 2002 Teacher of the Year for Aiken County, was later named South Carolina Teacher of the Year and was one of four finalists at the national level.