It is common in the field of education to hear the term at-risk hurled around. The definition according to Teriann Nash who teaches exceptional students in Lee County School District might be surprising. Nash works with those who have learning or physical disabilities and contends that her students are at risk of becoming future businessmen and women, educators, doctors, attorneys, nurses, cosmetologists, scientists, the president, or even the person who will invent a cure for cancer.
While Nash is busy giving accolades to them, her peers were quick to acknowledge her skill in teaching, resulting in her being honored as the 2018-19 District Teacher of the Year (TOY).
“Validation from peers is one of the highest honors that can be given to teachers. It shows the love, passion, and the expectations you have for students and the love and respect your peers have for you,” says Nash, who was quick to congratulate school level Teachers of the Year, wishing for them increased opportunities to exhibit passion and inspiration as they build relationships with students, parents, and coworkers.
The award validates her belief that she was “called” to teach, says Nash.
“I was incredibly honored to be selected as the Teacher of the Year not only for Lee Central High School but also for the district,” says Nash. “I believe God has called me and equipped me to do this job and gave me the ability to do what I do. He gifted me with teaching and with encouragement.”
Not many can say they never regretted a day of working in their chosen professions but Nash maintains just that.
“There has never been a day that I have regretted becoming a teacher,” says Nash. “There are some decisions as a teacher I made early in my career and now that I am older and wiser, I wish I could go back and change the way I reacted to situations and show more compassion and understanding towards students in their times of struggle.”
Nash is a doctoral student of Northcentral University and will complete her education specialist degree in administration from Arkansas State in August. She earned a degree in special education (learning disabilities) from Francis Marion University and a degree in elementary education from the University of South Carolina. Her years in college and 24 years (16 with LCSD) as a K-12 public education teacher means Nash has spent most of her life in a classroom setting. She does recall a time that she entered the classroom with trepidation though. Her family had moved to a new town the summer before she started second grade and Nash had an array of emotions going on that first day.
“I was angry to be in a new school – sad because I missed my friends at my old school, intimidated being in a new environment, and afraid of the unknown,” says Nash. “I vividly remember the first day of school. My teacher, Jackie Geddings Olson, greeted me with a gigantic smile and warm hug. All of those feelings immediately vanished.”
This teacher had a way of making everyone feel as if they were her favorite student and is the reason Nash became a teacher herself.
“It has been 40 years since I was in her class; however, I see her in town often and I still believe that I am her favorite student,” says Nash. “I strive to be the teacher for students that Mrs. Geddings-Olson was for me.”
Nash, who lost her mom unexpectedly the week before Thanksgiving in 2017 says one of the first people to visit her mom’s house during their bereavement was Geddings-Olson.
“I was not at all surprised because she has always been there for me. I pray that my students know that I will be there for them until I take my very last breath,” she says.
Right now, she is teaching at Lee Central High School but the journey began at another school in the district.
The transfer to her current position was an answer to a prayer, Nash says.
“I always wondered if I was in the right place and serving the children in Lee County effectively,” she says. “I now know that the Lord was preparing me all those years to be the teacher I am today. It was not until I transferred to the high school that I found my passion and place in education.”
As Nash found her place, she also developed a keen education philosophy, describing life as a book and educators as the manufacturers of the pen students use to write that book.
“Each person has the same first chapter (birth) and last chapter (death); however, it is up to each individual to make the chapters in between worthy of being read,” says Nash. “It is our duty as educators to ensure that students have the tools needed to make the chapters in their lives as meaningful and awesome as possible.”
The duty of a teacher according to Nash is to BE… passionate about teaching and teach daily with this passion; expect the best from each student; believe that each child can achieve; challenge the students on academic and personal development levels; and above all else inspire and empower students to be the best person they can be.
“Teachers need to equip students with the tools necessary to be the unique individual that they are capable of being for their future,” says Nash. “Allow students to show their creativity and give them freedom to express themselves and be creative within the boundaries of learning.”
Nash further describes teaching as a walk.
“Teachers walk beside students as they journey through a portion of their life,” says Nash.
Students are given the tools of passion, nurture, growth and maturation by their teachers, she says and it is done “through their smile, expectations, and motivation (which) may be the difference that our students need to succeed.”
The passion, the zeal, and the love she has for the profession and students can only be explained in one word she says – God.
“I cannot imagine being a teacher and not having faith in God. I pray for my students each morning and every night,” says Nash. “I have prayed for any student that has or will ever cross my path. I use my faith and the fact that I am a mom and Gammi to guide my responses to situations at school.”
The expectation is that she and other teachers treat students as if they were their very own.
As for her future, Nash has not expressed much interest in doing anything but see her students soar.
“These students are eagerly awaiting, patiently to have the opportunity to spread their wings and shine,” says Nash. “As part of the South Carolina team of teachers it is our duty and obligation to bring students where they need to be and ensure they love, respect, and value the reflection in the mirror.”
This distinction places Nash among other TOYs who will contend for the statewide award to be presented on May 8, 2019 at the Teacher of the Year Celebration.