Karen McKenzie teaches social studies at H.E. McCracken Middle

2018-19 District Teacher of the Year Announced
Posted on 09/28/2018
Karen McKenzie

Friday, September 28, 2018

H.E. McCracken Middle teacher honored
as 2018-19 District Teacher of the Year

BEAUFORT – A National Board Certified teacher with more than 20 years of classroom experience was named today as the Beaufort County’s 2018-2019 District Teacher of the Year.

The selection of Karen McKenzie, who teaches 8th grade social studies at H.E. McCracken Middle School, was announced during a breakfast celebration honoring teachers of the year from all of the district’s schools. 

“Just shock, mostly,” McKenzie said in reaction to today’s announcement.  “There are so many amazing teachers in this room today, and to be selected to represent all of them is really awe-inspiring.”

Jerry Henderson said McKenzie was one of the first teachers he hired after being named principal of H.E. McCracken three years ago, and he has never regretted the decision.

“She’s a super-dynamic team player, and she does whatever it takes to help students succeed,” Henderson said.  “She’s a leader on the H.E. McCracken faculty, and I’m confident that she will do a terrific job representing our school and our district.”

Shane Gault, executive manager of Hilton Head Buick-GMC-Cadillac, presented McKenzie with a $5,000 cash prize.

“Our company is honored to be here and excited to be able to recognize such an outstanding teacher,” Gault said.  “As a child, I had a learning disability that made reading very difficult, and it was a very special teacher who devoted lots of extra time and extra effort so that I could succeed.  Our teachers are wonderful people, and this is a small way for us to say thanks.”

The four other finalists for 2018-2019 District Teacher of the Year were Brittany Carter of Bluffton High School, Tamekia Ford of Whale Branch Middle School, Kelly Hall of Beaufort Middle School and Cora Lugo of Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts.

McKenzie said her teaching style is built on sharing her studies and demonstrating her commitment to learn. 

“Learning is a journey, a lifelong journey,” she wrote in her Teacher of the Year application. “I want to take my students on a portion of that journey. I want them to leave my class understanding their role as American citizens. I want them to understand the ideals, principles and the path that led us to who we are today.”

McKenzie said that for her, the best reward of teaching is having a student come to her wanting to discuss the latest issue of concern or wanting help to look deeper into a specific subject.

McKenzie holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in art integration from Lesley University, as well as a Gifted and Talented Endorsement from the University of South Carolina and a Read to Succeed Endorsement from the South Carolina Department of Education.  McKenzie has been National Board-Certified since 2009.

Becoming District Teacher of the Year is a three-step process that begins when school-level teachers of the year are selected in April.  Those wishing to compete for District Teacher of the Year submit detailed applications by the end of July. 

In the second step, a selection committee consisting of parents, former educators and community leaders from across Beaufort County reviews the applications and rates them using a numerical scoring system.  The five highest-scoring applicants are named as finalists. 

In the third step, the finalists are interviewed by a separate review committee again composed of judges from across the county.  Those panelists begin by reviewing videos of the teachers doing classroom lessons.  The judges then score candidates based on how well they respond to questions about the teaching methods shown in the videos, as well as how they respond to questions about current education issues.  After those interviews, the panel selects the District Teacher of the Year in September, and that person represents Beaufort County in the South Carolina State Teacher of the Year program. Finalists for the state program will be announced in February.

2018-19 Teachers of the Year, listed by school:

Battery Creek High - Joel Keown
Beaufort Elementary - Jonnie Holt
Beaufort High - Susan Mitchell
Beaufort Middle - Kelly Hall**
Bluffton Elementary/ECC -  Valerie Seldes
Bluffton High - Brittany Carter**
Bluffton Middle - Joshua Appel
Broad River Elementary - Lakeshia McMillon
Coosa Elementary - Cindy Landa
H. E. McCracken Middle - Karen McKenzie**
Hilton Head Island ECC - Amy Orr
Hilton Head High -  Edie Philips
Hilton Head Island Elementary IB- Theresa Hamby
Hilton Head Island Middle - Patricia Drane
Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts - Cora Lugo**
Islands Academy - Raven Polk
Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary - Vikki Deloach
Lady’s Island Elementary - Ashley Walker
Lady’s Island Middle - Kelsey Lopez
May River High - Elizabeth Patterson
Michael C. Riley Elementary/ECC - Melissa Cahill
Mossy Oaks Elementary - Lesley Perry
Okatie Elementary - Emily “Nikki” Davis
Port Royal Elementary - Shelley Krebs
Pritchardville Elementary - Kristie Cox
Red Cedar Elementary - Emily Brayshaw
River Ridge Academy - Christina Peth
Robert Smalls International Academy - Jacqueline Lawton
St. Helena Elementary/ELC - Angela Palmerio
Whale Branch Early College High - Dr. Trina Simmons Hill
Whale Branch Elementary/James Davis ECC -  Christina Davis
Whale Branch Middle - Tamekia Ford**
Academy for Career Excellence - Aretha Bright
Adult Education - Patricia Spivey

**District Teacher of the Year Finalists