2021 Jessie Williams Little "Leading the Way" Award

The 2021 Jessie Williams Little "Leading the Way" Award recipient is Allison Long, 5th grade teacher at Ellen Woodside Elementary in the Greenville County School District and mentor to preservice teacher candidates, beginning teachers, and veteran teachers. As this year’s award winner, Long received a banner to display at her school and will receive $2,500.

According to Nathan Deese, assistant principal at Ellen Woodside Elementary, “One of Long’s strengths as a teacher is relationship building. Whether with colleagues, students, or parents, she works to support and engage them all in a positive way. Long shares this knowledge with those she mentors to allow them to be successful as well. She patiently guides and mentors each new teacher, whatever their needs may be.”

Award Finalists

Melissa Higdon, Music teacher, Ebinport Elementary in the Rock Hill School District. “Ms. Higdon mentors with grace and allows teacher candidates the room to feel safe trying new strategies, learn from making mistakes, and constructively helps them work towards their goals. She creates a welcoming environment and supports her teacher candidates by ensuring that students afford them the same respect as a teacher as they do for her,” said Stacey Walden.

Tonya Price, Spanish teacher and Teacher Cadet instructor, Gilbert High School in the Lexington County School District 1. “Because Ms. Price is committed to helping people reach high expectations for their students, she actively advocates for the needs of her teachers with administration, district leadership, and her colleagues in other departments. She ensures that the people in her department have the information, resources, and support needed to be the best teachers that they can be,” said nominator Jacob Nelson.

Mary Rooney, 1st grade teacher, Myrtle Beach Primary School in the Horry County District. “Ms. Rooney’s attitude is contagious and she easily brings positivity and humor to this demanding profession. She provides guidance to new teachers and proves to them that the rewards of teaching outweigh the challenges,” said nominator Kimberly Thomas.

Tina Smith, Kindergarten teacher, Chandler Creek in the Greenville County School District. “One of the most valuable parts of Ms. Smith’s mentoring is the ability to listen and provide the needed time for the teacher to share about celebrations and areas of need. Her responsibilities allow the teacher a safe place to seek advice and she is able to share and lead the new teacher forward,” said nominator Jane Mills.

Award Semifinalists

Ashley Gresham Ghent, 5th grade teacher at Mount Gallant in Rock Hill School District. “Ms. Ghent facilitates teacher learning by affirming what teachers are doing, being fully available to help them, being supportive, and offering suggestions in a positive way,” said nominator Dr. Lee Johnson.

Morgan McWhite, Art teacher, Oakridge Elementary School in the Clover School District. “Ms. McWhite was welcoming, helpful, and most of all, willing to let me take lead. She was great about sharing her space and lessons, along with being patient about me learning from my own mistakes. To this day she still helps me,” said nominator Joyce Seaman.

Lee Peace, Social Studies Teacher and Teacher Cadet instructor, Andrews High School in Georgetown County School District. “Ms. Peace’s mentoring and serving as a cooperating teacher has made a huge impact on the interns and induction teachers that she has served. All interns serving under her leadership usually end up with jobs. Not only do they end up with jobs, the retention of these teachers has a lasting effect,” said nominator Dr. Paula Anderson.

Tracy Redmon, Speech/Language Pathologist, Powdersville Elementary in Anderson School District 1. “Ms. Redmon knows how to encourage and affirm young teachers who compare themselves to the veteran teachers and want to be like them. With Ms. Redmon as a mentor, the mentee is never alone, but supported by a confident, caring, and talented professional,” said nominator Cheyenne Barber.