Rhonda Hudak, a seventh- grade English language arts teacher at Rawlinson Road Middle School in Rock Hill, is one of five “outstanding finalists” for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year.
While the rest of the state found out Tuesday, Hudak got the news Saturday in a phone call from Mick Zais, state superintendent for education. Since then, Hudak said she’s been on “cloud nine.”
“This is just a huge honor,” Hudak said.
The South Carolina Teacher of the Year will get $25,000 in cash and a new BMW to use for a year, according to the S.C. Department of Education. The honoree also will participate in a one-year residency program at the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement and will act as an ambassador for teaching statewide.
The other four finalists each will receive $10,000 and be named “Honor Roll Teachers.”
If selected as the winner, Hudak would be the third Rock Hill teacher in the last six years to be named the state’s top teacher. Northwestern High School English teacher Patti Tate won in 2012, two years after Northwestern High computer science and pre-engineering teacher Bryan Coburn won in 2010. The district also had several Honor Roll teachers in the past few years.
“Is that not the coolest thing that Rock Hill has been able to produce these amazing teachers?” Hudak said.
This year’s other state finalists are Jennifer Ainsworth from Horry County School District, John “Jed” Dearybury from Spartanburg School District 6, Patrick Kelly from Richland School District 2 and Vivian “Beth” Tuten from Lexington School District 4.
“I’m so proud of these individuals and what they’ve accomplished as finalists for our annual teacher of the year award,” said Zais in a statement. “They have been chosen from among nearly 50,000 classroom teachers and are being recognized for their hard work and classroom achievements.”
The winner will be announced on April 23.