Silver Bluff teacher is best in field

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AIKEN --- Silver Bluff High School teacher Jim McNeill was named the National Social Studies Teacher of the Year at a recent conference in Houston.

"Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised. I don't think I am any better than any of the other teachers I work with," the ninth-grade social studies teacher said. "I know lots of teachers who do so many things I want to emulate."

Mr. McNeill has taught for 26 years, but it's a career that almost didn't happen.

The Aiken resident was in his last semester of college, preparing to follow in his father's footsteps as a diplomat, when he decided to change his major to education.

"I was a teaching assistant in the biology department for the nonbiology students and had fun doing that, and that's when I realized I didn't want to become who I was supposed to become," Mr. McNeill said.

He changed his major and never looked back.

Mr. McNeill said what he likes most about teaching is "the challenge and the opportunity to work with kids and try to help them discover in themselves what they're capable of doing."

His method of teaching is not to tell his students what he thinks but rather to provide them with the facts and have them combine those with what they already know to come to their own decision.

"I think it's more important for the kids to learn how to express themselves rather than to parrot anything I teach them," he said.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.

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