Teacher of the Year 2021-22 and 2022-23

Profile photo of Summer Carling

Summer Carling, '04

District 3

Summer Carling, ’04, has been a teacher for 23 years and currently teaches biology, physics and the AVID elective at Broome High School. She says the best part of teaching is building confidence in young people. “I am ultimately trying to grow successful people who work hard, are kind to others, and make our world a better place no matter what profession they go into,” she says. “If I can light a spark of inspiration in the hearts of my students, my hope is that they will continue to push themselves to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves.”

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Jami Guker '02

District 4; State finalist

Jami Guker, ’02, has taught math at Woodruff Middle School for all 21 of her years in the classroom. What she loves most about teaching is connecting with her students and forming relationships with them that often last a lifetime. “My goal as their math teacher is to empower them with knowledge,” Guker says. She particularly enjoys changing the mindset of students who don’t think they’re good at math and showing them they can do anything. Guker adds, “I also love my job because I have the opportunity to encourage my students to never give up and to become the best individual they can possibly be. As stated in the book ‘Change Your World,’ I may not be able to change the entire world, but I can change someone’s world.”

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Marissa Drake, '12

District 2

Marissa Drake, ’12, is a third-grade teacher at Mayo Elementary School. She has been in the classroom for nearly 10 years, and has taught at Mayo since 2019. She says the most rewarding thing about being a teacher is being able to create memorable learning experiences for her students. “Whether I’m dressed up as magician because they worked hard on a particular mathematics skill and are now ‘math-magicians,’ or learning how to sing a song in another language to celebrate diversity, I’m always engaging with my students,” Drake says. “I want my students to enter our classroom as their authentic identities, and celebrate who they are as a person, not just as a student.”

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Leslie Borton, '19

South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind

Leslie Borton, ’19, has been a teacher for three years and an administrator for two. She is currently lead teacher at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, and previously taught at Cedar Springs Academy. She says her favorite part of her job is the support and camaraderie from administration and fellow teachers. “Everyone looks out for each other,” she says. “This creates an optimum learning environment, which allows students to thrive and grow.”

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Tara Williamson, '02

Spartanburg Preparatory

Tara Williamson, ’02, is in her sixth and final year of teaching. She previously taught fifth grade at Berry Shoals Elementary School in District 5 and fourth and second grades at Spartanburg Prep. Currently teaching first grade, Williamson said she loves her class. “I have all girls and we have a blast learning.”

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Jessie Self, '18

Spartanburg Preparatory

Jessie Self, ’18, is in her fourth year of teaching at Spartanburg Preparatory School, where she has worked since graduation. “By far my favorite part of teaching is my relationships with students,” Self says. “I love having a small part in their journeys and hope that I foster a love of being a lifelong learner in them.”