As important as the curriculum is, what is even more important is who is teaching the curriculum. The extraordinary level of achievement of our students may be attributed to the high level of expectations placed on students, as well as the support students receive from the faculty. With limited class sizes, teachers are able to take the time to really get to know and care about each student. The confidence the faculty has in our students encourages them to reach beyond their perceived limitations.
At Wilson Hall the process of education occurs in an atmosphere of genuine caring and support that comes from the mutual respect between our teacher and students. Our teachers encourage the best from their students but they also give freely of themselves, even when they have to sacrifice their private time to do so. Our teachers stay after school each day to offer assistance to students or speak with parents, with many teachers having regularly scheduled tutoring or review sessions. Many of our faculty members serve as team coaches and club advisors, so it is not uncommon to see them on campus working long after school is dismissed.
Any curriculum is only as good as the person teaching it, and Wilson Hall has some of the best teachers in the region as judged by the numerous commendations. In the S.C. Independent School Association’s annual teacher of the year competition, Wilson Hall has had more teachers receive recognition than any other school in the area.
Since the school is fully accredited through AdvancED, the non-profit, non-governmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools throughout the United States and internationally, all of our teachers are either certified or teach a majority of their courses in the area of their college major.
Wilson Hall has had 11 teachers named State Teacher of the Year by the S.C. Independent School Association, and 27 teachers have been among the top three finalists for the award.
Mrs. Amy Jones, a kindergarten teacher, is one of three finalists in the state for the 2021 S.C. Independent School Association Elementary School Teacher of the Year. After being elected by her peers at the school, Mrs. Jones entered the state-level contest by submitting an essay, resume, and recommendations from peers and the administration. After reading through the many submissions for Teacher of the Year from across the state, a panel of educators made the selection of the top three finalists for each division. Mrs. Jones has 14 years of teaching experience, the last three at Wilson Hall. She is Wilson Hall's 38th teacher to receive this recognition in the 32-year program. There are 120 member schools in S.C.I.S.A.
Mrs. Molly McDuffie was named the 2020 State Middle School Teacher of the Year by the S.C. Independent School Assoc. After being selected by her peers at the school, Mrs. McDuffie entered the state-level contest by submitting an essay, resume, and recommendations from peers and the administration. After reading through the many submissions for Teacher of the Year from across the state, a panel of educators made the selection of the top three finalists and then announced the winner in November. Mrs. McDuffie teaches seventh grade literature and English II Honors. She serves as the English Department Chair and she is the advisor for the Middle School Battle of the Books Team and the Middle School Reading Fair Team. There are 110 schools in SCISA.
From the September 30, 2020, issue of The Sumter Item:
Small in stature but large in presence. Teresa Alexander has a gargantuan impact on the students, teachers and families at Wilson Hall. From the classroom to the school to the home to the field, Teresa fills big shoes and influences many.
With a special education background dictating the way she plans her seventh-grade composition and pre-algebra classes, movement/touch, sound and sight are incorporated into every lesson. Students may chant and dance to vocabulary words and rotate through centers, but they also sit and focus on writing marvelous papers. Balance is what makes Teresa an unbelievable teacher. She uses a variety of individual, group and partner work, as well as color coding of thesis statement, topic sentences, vivid verbs, etc. Her instruction is partially driven by assessments; when she notices a weakness in many students, she customizes her lesson to include the skills that were missed. Above all, she makes very difficult learning a great deal of fun. A friendly racing competition is the way she gets students to diagram sentences or label parts of speech without grumbling. With a game of "Beat the Teacher," Teresa pulls the most from the students, and they often do not even realize they are learning.
In addition to being a dynamo in the classroom, Teresa wears many hats for the school. She is the grade-level chair for seventh grade, a job in which she must stay in constant communication with the other teachers and the parents. She is responsible for leading the quarterly meetings, but more importantly, she monitors students' grades and behavior logs to make sure no students are slipping through the cracks. She helps absent students catch up on assignments and assigns teacher or student mentors as needed. She bridges that gap from school to home effectively and efficiently.
Mrs. Alexander holds great respect among her peers, as many seek her out for advice on how to deal with students or parents or for alternative teaching methods. She presents at professional development days, and her sessions on Google Classroom/Google Meet are some of the most widely attended sessions.
Finally, Teresa is a coach for the varsity softball team, and the players hold great respect for her. Having served as the captain of the Winthrop softball team in college, she knows that it is just as important to care about her players off the field as it is on the field, just as she holds her players on the field as accountable as her students in the classroom.
This is the first in a new contest series called Teacher of the Month. Presented by Carolina Grove, the public is asked to nominate their favorite K-12 teachers in Sumter's public and private schools. After the nomination period, the public votes between four finalists determined by The Sumter Item staff. The Teacher of the Month will be announced in The Sumter Item's newspaper and online at www.theitem.com/teacher on the fourth Wednesday of the month. The winner receives a $50 gift certificate to Carolina Grove.
Mrs. Liz McCabe. Molly McDuffie and Mrs. Stacey Reaves, members of the English Department, earned state-level recognition at the S.C. Council of Teachers of English annual conference in Myrtle Beach. Mrs. McCabe received the Leadership Development Award which recognizes outstanding new members of the organization. She teaches Advanced Placement English Language, English II, and Senior Writing. Mrs. McDuffie received the Outstanding Service Award recognizing classroom teachers who provide outstanding service to their profession. The English Department Chair, she teaches English II Honors and Seventh Grade Literature. Mrs. Reaves, Upper School Head, received the Outstanding Administrator Award which recognizes administrators who provide outstanding encouragement in support of English Language Arts programs in the school. She teaches Advanced Placement English Literature. Nine of the school’s English teachers attended the conference which had the theme of “Reading the Past; Writing the Future.”
Mr. Tom O’Hare was one of ten teachers in the nation invited to attend The Bill of Rights Institute program entitled “Last Best Hope: Citizenship, Statesmanship & American History.” The program was hosted with the Center for Statesmanship, Law and Liberty at Rochester Institute of Technology and the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. The three-day program was held in Rochester, New York, in November. A James Madison Fellow, Mr. O’Hare serves as the Social Studies Department Chair, and he teaches Advanced Placement U.S. Government & Politics, Advanced Placement U.S. History, and World History.
Wilson Hall is fully accredited by AdvancED and the Southern Association of Independent Schools, and our teachers must have either certification by the state or teach in the area of their college major. Wilson Hall teachers have an average of 22 years of experience, with an average of 15 years at Wilson Hall.