Three USC Upstate Alumni Win Teacher of the Year Distinction in Sumter School District 17

October 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Sumter School District 17 over the summer announced the winners of the Sumter 17 District Teacher of the Year Award, and two USC Upstate alums captured top honors. Kim Johnston (’05) was named the Teacher of the Year and Lee E. Gandy III (’05) was named first runner-up. Another alum, Jonnell (’10) was named 2010-2011 Campus Teacher of the Year. These honors were announced at the district’s annual Back to School meeting at Patriot Hall on August 12, 2010. As an extra bonus, Jim Jones, owner of Jones Chevrolet, presented Johnston with the keys to a brand new car.

Kim Johnston is a third grade teacher at Lemira Elementary School, with five years of experience as an educator in Sumter 17. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from USC Upstate. Her honors and accomplishments include scoring in the top three percent of all Praxis II-PLY test takers and being a member of the Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society. The most rewarding part of her career in education has been establishing relationships with her students and parents and watching her students seek and achieve success. Kim is a member of the SCIRA Reading Association and the Sumter Junior Welfare League. She and her husband, Bubba, have two children.

Lee E. Gandy III, a fourth grade teacher at Alice Drive Elementary School, has five years of experience as an educator in Sumter 17. He earned an Associate of Arts from USC Sumter and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from USC Upstate. His honors and accomplishments include being named the 2010 USC Sumter Young Alumni of the Year, the 2009 USC Upstate Outstanding Alumni of the Year, 2007- 2009 Grade Level Chairman, presenter to the USC Sumter Student Education Organization, participant of the Santee-Wateree Writing project, and presenter at the SWWP workshop. At Alice Drive Elementary, Lee is a PACT Club teacher, PTA President, a Fall Festival coordinator, 4th Grade Math-a-Thon coordinator for St. Jude Hospital, and the assistant Website coordinator. He is a member of the South Carolina International Readers Association, Palmetto State Teachers Association and the American Legion. The most rewarding part of Lee’s career in education is when former students see him in public, run to hug him, and tell him he was one of their favorite teachers. It lets him know that he has made a positive difference in the life of a young person. Lee and his wife, Lori, have five children.

Jonnell Atkins (’10) was named a 2010-2011 Campus Teachers of the Year. A first-second grade Reading Recovery Interventionist/Literacy Specialist at Kingsbury Elementary School, has six years of experience as an educator in Sumter 17. She earned an Associate of Arts from USC Sumter, a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from UNC Greensboro, a Master of Early Childhood Education from USC Upstate, and Reading Recovery Certification from Clemson University. Jonnell has earned numerous honors and awards including the Rising Educator Scholarship, 2004-2005 Disney Creative Teacher Award Nominee, 2006-2007 District 17 Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award, and the 2008 Kingsbury Elementary and Sumter Area Distinguished Reading Teacher of the Year. She has also presented at the SCIRA Conference, the District Writing Workshop and the Launching Guided Reading Workshops/Training. At Kingsbury, Jonnell works with the Homework Club and the choir and has served as a pilot teacher for the School for Inquiry, chairperson of the Reading Recovery Team, co chair of the English/Language Arts Committee, co coordinator for Early Literacy Professional Development, and representative to the District ELA/Social Studies and Math/Science Committees. Professionally, she is a member of the Reading Recovery Council of North America, the Sumter Area Reading Council and the South Carolina International Reading Association. The most rewarding aspect of her career in teaching is to observe the lasting effects that she has as a teacher on the lives of her students and to see students pursue passions, interests and talents that she has helped them discover within themselves. It is also rewarding to share resources and information with colleagues that transform their teaching in positive ways. A collaborative atmosphere allows them to use their collective knowledge to enhance the learning experiences of students in their classrooms, schools and throughout the community. Jonnell is married to Ray Atkins.

The full story is available on the Sumter 17 web site: