Well Deserved!

Story by: Gerell Lawhorne & Mrs. SwilleyStudent Journalist & FCHS Principal

Just six days after winning South Carolina Teacher of the Year, a journalist from The Independent Voice of Blythewood & Fairfield suggested in a tweet that Fairfield County School District Teacher of the Year was not deserving of the title, but recognized only because the district’s superintendent of schools is a member of the State Board of Education. The tweet, in my opinion, was fabricated and concocted to intentionally criticize the greatness of my teacher, superintendent, school district, and the SC Department of Education.

According to the principles of journalism, journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism.So here are the FACTS:

• Our district TOY was selected by a panel of educators from neighboring school districts.

• According to the website for South Carolina Department of Education, the Selection of the State Teacher of the Year is the combined responsibility of two groups: The Teacher of the Year Screening Committee and the State Selection Committee.

• The Screening Committee identifies the top twenty-five candidates for consideration for the Selection Committee. The Selection Committee will choose five teachers to be named South Carolina Teacher of the Year finalists. A State Teacher of the Year and four Honor Roll Teachers are named.

Ms. Chanda Jefferson earned the title of 2020 S.C. Teacher of the Year. The title is well deserved. Chanda Jefferson was born in Augusta, Georgia and reared in Beech Island, South Carolina. After graduating from Midland Valley High School in Aiken Conty, she attended the University of South Carolna where she recieved her Bachelors of Science in Biological Sciences with a minor in General Education in 2009 and her Masters in Teaching Secondary Sceicens with an emphasis in biology and General Sciences in 2011. Currently she is a graduate student at Columbia University in New York.

Ms. Jefferson taught Biology, AP Biology, and Chorus at C.A. Johnson High School in Columbia, South Carolina for four years. As a science teacher, she started an after-school program to in students’ achievement in science and passage on the SC Biology End-of-Course Exam. During her time at C. A. Johnson, she served as a District Science Teacher Facilitator, Mentor Teacher, Wellness Coordinator, 8.5 Summer Program Activity Coordinator, and Health Science Advisory Board Member. After notable gains each year and various leadership roles in the school and school district, she was named 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year. She would go on to serve as an Early College Facilitator and Biology Teacher at Airport High School in West Columbia, SC. While serving at Airport High School, Ms. Jefferson helped pilot the Freshmen Early College Cohort, in which a group of students would take college courses together and graduate with an Associate’s Degree of Arts of Science.

Ms. Jefferson currently serves as Science Department Chair, STEM Lead teacher, and Science teacher at Fairfield Central High School where she continues to use real-world science experiences to actively engage her classes and inspire students to become future leaders in STEM fields. She also leads her science team to start new initiatives to increase students’ access to opportunities in Science.

In the past, Ms. Jefferson was selected for several noteworthy fellowships. She attended the Princeton University Molecular Biology Institute, NASA Airborne Research Experience for Educators, Siemen’s STARs institute and work with research teams at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. She also received funding from the Buzz Aldrin’s Tranquility Lodge to attend Space Center Houston’s, Space Exploration Education Conference and served as an Academy Teacher for SC Students First, an organization dedicated to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform.

In 2014, she was named Outstanding Biology Teacher of the Year for South Carolina by the National Association of Biology Teacher’s and invited by Harvard University Professor, Dr. William Anderson to speak to world-renowned scientists and researchers at the 74th Annual Society of Developmental Biology Conference in Snowbird, Utah. In 2017, she attended the Amazon Educator Academy, where she conducted ecological research in South America’s Peruvian Rainforest. Ms. Jefferson worked with the National Institute of Health and National Human Genome Research Institute as a network partner for a special 15th Anniversary of DNA Day Celebration; contributing expertise in reviewing and curating genomics educational resources for other educators and students. Her contributions led to the Governor of South Carolina officially proclaiming SC DNA Day throughout the entire state in April 2018.

For the 2018-2019 school year Ms. Jefferson served Fairfield Central High Teacher of the Year and Fairfield County School District Teacher of the Year. On March 11, 2018, Ms. Jefferson was surprised by State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman and named one of the five finalists for 2020 South Carolina Teacher of the Year. On May 8, 2019, she was named 2020 South Carolina Teacher of the Year, making history as the first ever in Fairfield County. Ms. Jefferson has been teaching for eight years and plans to continue to pursue her passion for education and student achievement, while continually searching for innovative ideas and strategies to positively impact the lives of students and encourage them to follow their dreams. As the 2020 State Teacher of the Year, she looks forward to serving as an ambassador for over 50,000 teachers in the state and encouraging them to use their stories, their students’ stories, and their voices to advocate for positive change in education. Thank you Ms. Jefferson! This honor is well deserved!