York's teacher of the year Tracy Warren is learning about herself while competing for that title at the state level.
The social studies teacher at York Junior High School is among four teachers in York County who have the task of selling their teaching skills for the chance to be an ambassador for education in the state for a year.
"It's a pretty hefty homework assignment, but it's fun because you get to see how much you're doing on paper," said Warren, who has been teaching for eight years.
Each district names a teacher of the year in the spring or fall. But the honor doesn't stop with the applause. The lengthy teacher-of-the-year application is due this month, with the winner announced in April.
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The selection process requires each of the more than 80 applicants to detail their teaching career and message for educators, said Kathy Gardner-Jones, director of teacher recognition for South Carolina Department of Education.
Several panels of judges select a top 25, top five and then a winner. The state's top teacher then spends the next year as a teacher-in-residence at the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement and serves as chair of the South Carolina Teacher Forum.
The winner also receives $25,000 and the use a BMW Z4 roadster for a year, Gardner-Jones said. The other four finalists receive $10,000.
Warren was honored with York district's award in May, so she's had several months to write about her professional development and her unique teaching philosophy that landed her the award.
"I teach outside the box," Warren said. "A lot of people think teenagers aren't into being silly. I have them re-enact things and do hand jives. We have a good time learning."
Warren, who chose teaching over a law enforcement career, said teaching allows her to make a difference, be creative and use her energy and enthusiasm.
The world history teacher said she wishes she would have paid more attention to the subject she teaches when she was in school.
"It's like gossip, but old gossip," she said.
Clover's Teacher of the Year, Regina Inman, was too busy preparing for performances to get to her application before the holidays.
The dance teacher at Clover Junior High said that's how she had planned to spend her break.
"There's too much teaching to do," Inman said before school let out for the holidays.
Before her post at the junior high, Inman taught at her private dance studio in York. She's performed with Spirit Square Jazz Ensemble, Charlotte City Ballet, Rock Hill Ballet and Gaston Dance Theatre and studied professionally in New York City with the American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Charles Kelly and Frank Hatchett.
For Warren, the most rewarding aspect of teaching is positive feedback from her students.
" I love to have a kid tell me that it's fun to learn," Warren said. "I love when they say that they never thought social studies could be this fun. To me that's a good moment."
District teachers of the year
• York: Tracy Warren, York Junior High School
• Clover: Regina Inman, Clover Junior High School
• Rock Hill: Saundra Booker, Saluda Trail Middle School
• Fort Mill: Julie Warner, Fort Mill Middle School