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SC Whitmore School Names Christine Cleary 2024 Teacher of the Year

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Columbia, SC – SC Whitmore School (SCWS), a statewide online public charter high school, has named Curriculum Designer and Career Technology Education (CTE) Instructor, Christine Cleary as its 2024 Teacher of the Year.

Cleary has always had a passion for education and helping others. The education career runs strong in Cleary’s family, both of her parents were educators in Delaware. She started college as a Psychology major, but at 19 she was called to take a 5-month long-term substitute position as a middle school theater teacher, which confirmed her love for the education field.

“I was known in the community as a performer, and had directed and choreographed musicals at local high schools and middle schools- so I took the job,” said Cleary. “That experience of working daily with kids in a classroom setting made me change my major to education and pursue a career as a teacher. When my degree was complete, I was fortunate to be hired for my first teaching job at the school where I did my student teaching. Although I have changed grade levels, subjects, and moved to a new state, I never left the teaching profession.”

Cleary earned her bachelor’s degree from Wilmington University in middle school education: all subjects. She also earned her master’s degree from Montana State in Science Education with a focus on the Life Sciences. Currently, Cleary is wrapping up her doctorate in Learning, Design, and Technology from the University of Wyoming.

She began teaching at SC Whitmore School in 2021. Cleary says creating relationships with the students is essential and helps to make sure they are successful online.

“Even though we are an online school, I am able to connect with my students through our one-on-one sessions and group meetings for my classes and through activities held by the school,” said Cleary. “Because we are not in the same room, students at SCWS reach out regularly through the method that works best for them digitally and we then work through their questions or problems. I love seeing students in person on testing days and at graduation when I am often surprised how many come up to chat, share something going on in their lives, and/or say thank you.”

Cleary enjoys seeing the creative ways students complete tasks in her classes.

“I teach mainly science and career classes which are very project and lab-based. In my classes there is often not one right answer or one way to do things,” said Cleary. “I love seeing the creativity my students put into their projects and responses. I give targeted feedback or ask them questions to help stretch their understanding even further. They can then make changes or additions before they turn in a final draft.”

SC Whitmore School Principal, Eboné Adams said, “Christine has been invested in making SCWS a great learning experience for students. Her innovative teaching approach, patience, and genuine care for each student’s well-being have left a lasting impression on all of her students. Christine has the ability to recognize and nurture the unique strengths of every student which is exactly the type of educator that is needed at SCWS. Christine is a pleasure to work with and she has gained so much respect from her colleagues.”

Education is constantly evolving. Cleary says, “I think lately there has been a lot of talk about teacher shortages or people not going into the profession. I would still pick my profession today if I was starting out. It is challenging some days but rewarding every day!”

Cleary has great advice for educators, “To those who want to teach virtually, keep learning and staying up to date with the technology trends. I have been teaching for 19 years and still always have new things to learn. I am actually finishing my doctorate (Ed.D) this year in Learning, Design, and Technology. Learning is a lifelong process and I hope my love for learning and the power of education is something I pass on to my students.”

Christine Cleary has had a great year at SC Whitmore School and in her personal life as well! She also became a mom in June 2023! She and her husband adopted three amazing kids!

“Christine is such a pleasure to work with,” said SCWS Executive Director Kim Dunbar. “She always has a positive attitude and brings great ideas to best support students and the school as a whole. Some of the positive comments her colleagues had to say about her was, “She does a lot to connect and build rapport with students, but is also always stretching to find new ways to bring interesting content, activities, and courses to them“ and “Christine Cleary is always willing to work with students and find ways to help meet their needs.”

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