Teacher of the Year addresses school board

By Ben Robinson
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Pickens County’s 2015-16 Teacher of the Year, Trina Stephens, briefly addressed members of the Pickens County School Board of during their meeting Monday night.

[cointent_lockedcontent]”I am proud to be a spokesperson for the profession that I am passionate about,” Stephens said. “I view this role as another opportunity to be an advocate for the children we teach every day here in Pickens County.”

Stephens reflected on the new school year and its impact.

“I thought about the fact that this is not only the beginning of a new year for school teachers, but for each of you as well,” Stephens said. “As a teacher, the new year provides a fresh start. Time is spent reflecting on lessons and techniques. It’s similar to New Year’s Day, when people make resolutions for change, whether that be dropping bad habits or starting healthy ones. With that in mind, I reflect on healthy changes that have come to pass and ones that will represent challenges to you and encourage productive results.”

Stephens said she appreciates the district’s recent decision to honor step pay increases this year.

“The most current healthy change is our step increase,” Stephens said. “And I want to take the time to say how thankful we are for the support from the board. I can’t help but laugh at people who make the comment ‘It must be nice to be off by 3 p.m. and have the summer off.’

“That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anyone who’s ever been close to an educator knows an educator’s day never ends, and summers are spent doing things for your classroom that you didn’t have time to do during the school year.”

Stephens justified step increases in pay.

“Some people think having a step increase each year is unreasonable, because another year of experience doesn’t always equate to a more effective teacher,” she said. “But I would argue that in most cases it does. You would be amazed at the depth of knowledge a teacher gains with each year. Not just about the standards that he or she teaches, but about how kids learn and what misconceptions they commonly have with certain skills and topics.”

Stephens said how the district treats teachers reflects upon its students.

“An investment in teachers anchors your commitment to students,” Stephens said. “I appreciate you for making that investment.”

Stephens ended her speech with two challenges for the school board.

“I’d like to present two challenges for you to reflect upon,” she said. “The first challenge is to find balance between community and schools. I know you are faced with many different perspectives to consider when making decisions for our school district. I believe finding middle ground and not being committed to one point of view will allow Pickens County to have the best school year possible.”

Stephens encouraged board members to actually visit the schools.

“The second challenge is to spend time at the schools who you represent,” she said. “I understand each of you have lives outside of serving on this board. And I know that your lives are just as busy as the rest of us. But our district is more than just buildings and programs. The education for students is impacted with each decision that’s made. To make a best-interest decision, you should have contact with those who will be impacted. “

Stephens compared the experience of visiting a school to the experience of enjoying it when the Clemson football team runs down The Hill to enter Death Valley before a game.

“Let me relate it to my favorite football team,” Stephens said. “I can hear about the 25 most exciting seconds in college football, but will never understand the power of that moment until I’m standing with the crowd in the stadium. You can receive reports about our schools, but you will never fully understand until you spend time in them.”

Stephens ended her speech by thanking the board.

“Pickens County is a great district to work for, with many opportunities to offer our students in academics, athletics and the arts,” she said. “We have experienced great success. By being willing to reflect on our strengths and weaknesses, we will produce better opportunities for our students and better results. Again, thank you for the positive impact you have had on our school district. Please know that you are encouraged to continue seeking growth.”