Teacher Mentors Honored at Winthrop for Their Dedication

March 07, 2019


  • Educators gathered Feb. 28 at Winthrop University to celebrate the newest class of teachers nominated for the award, which recognizes a South Carolina educator who has made a significant impact as a mentor to future or beginning teachers.
  • The winner, Melissa Jackson, is a mathematics teacher at Crestwood High School in Sumter, South Carolina.

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – Melissa Jackson, a mathematics teacher at Crestwood High School in the Sumter School District, has been named the 2019 Jessie Williams Little “Leading the Way” Award winner.

Educators gathered Feb. 28 at Winthrop University to celebrate the newest class of teachers nominated for the award, which recognizes a South Carolina educator who has made a significant impact as a mentor to future or beginning teachers. 

Nominations poured in from across South Carolina for public school teachers who stand out for their guidance. Twelve teachers were cited for their work and given a financial reward.

Shirley Gamble, Jackson’s principal, noted that Jackson has been especially helpful for novice teachers she’s mentored, answering all of the “Where do…?” and “How do I…?” questions. 

“She helps teachers navigate the minefield of challenges that await them, greatly reducing their levels of frustration with her caring support,” Gamble said. “She is the calming voice that says to them, ‘You are going to make it,’ and they most certainly do.”

Jackson is a role model for others, she added.

“Working with students from rural South Carolina, she tells them that it does not matter so much where they start, but rather where and how they finish,” Gamble said. “She recognizes the need to support students who struggle with high school mathematics – relinquishing teaching high achievers to ensure those who need her abilities the most receive the high-quality instruction they deserve.”

Jackson received $2,500 and a banner to display at her school.

Lisa Johnson, director of the James and Susan Rex Institute for Educational Renewal and Partnership in Winthrop’s Richard W. Riley College of Education, said that those in the field know that teaching is not an isolated event. 

“Whether a Teacher Cadet instructor, a mentor to college students learning to teach for the first time or beginning teacher mentors, or those teacher mentors who just naturally support anyone who needs it, these are the positive role models on which we hang the hope of recruiting and keeping the best and brightest in education,” Johnson said. 

Those selected as finalists and awarded $1,000 were:
*Kamaya Mention, third-grade teacher at Summit Drive Elementary, Greenville County Schools
*John Cullinen, photography teacher at Battery Creek High School, Beaufort County School District 
*Dawn Bryant, third-grade teacher at J.D. Lever Elementary, Aiken County Public School District 

Chosen as semifinalists and given $750 were:
*Lindsey Harris, second-grade teacher at Roebuck Elementary, Spartanburg County School District Six 
*Britni Wilt, kindergarten teacher at Finley Road Elementary, Rock Hill Schools
*Dianne Hartness, English teacher at Newberry High School, School District of Newberry County
*Inga Carey ‘16, music teacher at Rosewood Elementary, Rock Hill Schools
*Carol Jackson, English teacher at Dutch Fork High School, District Five of Lexington & Richland Counties
*Jamie Livingston, kindergarten teacher at Gold Hill Elementary, Fort Mill Schools
*Melissa Lyon ’84, ‘91, reading recovery teacher at Oakdale Elementary, Rock Hill Schools
*Tara Blocker ‘83, fourth-grade teacher at Fairfield Magnet School for Science and Math, Fairfield County School District 

Also attending the Feb. 28 event were Jessie ’73 and John Little ’02. 

Jessie Little, who grew up around the Winthrop campus and was one of five family members to attend, retired from the university in 2005 after many years. Others in attendance were donors who gave money to help fund the gifts to the teachers. Special thanks to Harold “Skip” Tuttle and Judy Tuttle for their generous contribution to the recognition efforts as well as Harry Dalton '86 and Kathie Greiner Brabham '72; Sigmon Huitt and Judy Huitt; Will Jordan '76 and Margaret Jordan; Dr. Jane LaRoche '69, '70;  Bill Morrell and Pam Morrell; Jody Rankin '94; Gerry Schapiro and Barbara Allen Schapiro '70; Walter Sherman and Geraldine Sherman; James Rex and Sue Smith Rex; Bragg Williams and Salley Williams '76; and Gary Williams and Peggy Williams. 

Sue Smith-Rex, a retired faculty member, former member of the Winthrop Board of Trustees and a namesake for the Institute along with her husband, Jim, urged other education supporters to donate to the award. For more information including how to provide financial support to the “Leading the Way” initiative, contact Lisa Johnson, director of the Rex Institute, at johnsonle@winthrop.edu.

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