"GP2W" stands for Great Place To Work. The four characters serve as a reminder in communication among our staff of the culture of our district. Each week through the school year, our website will feature an article on one of our schools, departments, or people explaining how they make SDPC a Great Place To Work!
by Michelle Craddock, Principal
The challenges of educating today's learners are great in number. In our schools across the district we serve a wide range of students of varying abilities and experiences. They come from diverse backgrounds and each may have very different levels of home support. These external factors, for which the school has no control, could easily become our undoing. At Clemson Elementary, however, our diversity presents an opportunity for each of us as educators to learn and grow. Our faculty and staff's embracing this challenge with a positive attitude and an overarching passion for children and teaching make Clemson Elementary a place where every day is a great day to learn.
This year's Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Jennifer Sheriff, and Support Employee of the Year, Mrs. Connie Upchurch, can each be characterized in this exact manner. The attitude that they display and their love for their students and their respective roles in educating those students is evident in all that they do each day.
Mrs. Sheriff is in her fifth year of teaching at Clemson Elementary. Moving from a neighboring SDPC school, Mrs. Sheriff embarked on a new challenge with a positive attitude and an innate passion for teaching. Not much has changed since that time. Entering her first grade classroom today, you find that same attitude and passion.
Providing appropriate challenges and motivation is a task Mrs. Sheriff takes to heart. Drawing from her personal experiences in teaching which include all grades from K4 through second, Mrs. Sheriff understands and embraces her role in the classroom and the school. Her students are welcomed into a classroom community that provides for each of them much more than just the first grade curriculum. Students routinely learn about citizenship and are taught and expected to respect and be kind to one another. They are encouraged to work together and then to acknowledge their role in the team's success. Instructionally, Mrs. Sheriff provides the necessary support and guidance to ensure that each student experiences success regardless of his or her beginning level.
The diverse needs and backgrounds of her students often lead to extensive collaboration between Mrs. Sheriff and other teachers in our building, a testament to her belief in the power of a team. Mrs. Sheriff works with other first grade teachers, our reading specialists, our ESOL teachers, and our special education teachers to develop the most appropriate plan to meet learners' needs. Mrs. Sheriff's impact on students extends beyond just those students in her classroom. As a vital part of her collaborative team, Mrs. Sheriff provides ideas, suggestions, inspiration, and support for many other teachers and students in our building.
The same, positive attitude and passion for children and learning is exemplified by Clemson's Support Employee of the Year, Mrs. Connie Upchurch. An eight year veteran of Clemson Elementary, Mrs. Upchurch has experienced many firsts in her role as a Kindergarten assistant. While most of these experiences have been positive, the unexpected passing of her teaching partner during the 2013-2014 Winter Break left Mrs. Upchurch and 27 Kindergarten students in a state of disbelief. Mrs. Upchurch was the bridge between old and new. Her personal strength and positive outlook provided students and staff alike what was needed to move beyond a very tragic loss.
Today, Mrs. Upchurch continues her work in Kindergarten where her contributions to the classroom abound. Whether working in small groups to provide support to non-English speakers or struggling readers, facilitating literacy or numeracy centers, planning and prepping with her cooperating teacher, Mrs. Julie Simoneaux, or interacting with students and staff around the building, her positive energy is contagious. Her reach extends beyond Kindergarten and the regular school day, however. In our after school care program, Mrs. Upchurch regularly checks in on her former students, reminding them of the importance of hard work and always doing their best, always willing to help them reach that goal. Her commitment to student success is unwavering.
In our building on any given day in any of our classrooms, you can experience the excitement of learning and witness the dedication of our team. Our diversity is great but our focus is narrow; student success on all levels. A faculty and staff united by their passion for children and teaching and their positive attitudes make Clemson Elementary School one of the great places to work in the School District of Pickens County.