Each day leading up to our first "Stars of Public Education" banquet to be held Thursday, April 27, at the USC Aiken Convocation Center we will be featuring a different Honor Court member from among this year's Giving Even More (GEM), Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year honorees.
LEAH BYNES – J.D. LEVER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
POSITION: FOURTH GRADE GT TEACHER
Leah Bynes walked toward her classroom with a purpose.
She thought another teacher needed her assistance, but it was a diversion used to spring a big surprise on her as she walked in the door to loud cheers from her students while District representatives congratulated her as a Teacher of the Year Honor Court member.
What it may surprise others to learn is that as an elementary school student, Ms. Bynes admits she was a student most likely to cause a disruption – until some love and attention from her own teachers put her on a path to success.
“The first reason I became a teacher is because my teachers did not give up on me. Through the beginning of the second grade I was the student no teacher wanted to see coming,” Bynes recalls. “Many of my decisions would cause me to be sent to the principal’s office or for a phone call home. My teachers did not ignore me or put me in a corner. Instead, they wrapped their arms around me and told me I could, and would, do better.”
Bynes credits two other teachers – including her mom, who served as a Kindergarten teacher for 33 years – for making learning fun and providing the inspiration she needed to make the decision to enter the classroom herself.
“In the second grade, Ms. McBeth changed the way I felt about school. She always had our attention and learning was now fun,” Bynes remembers. “I remember telling my mom that I was NOT going to be a teacher because it was too much work. However, I saw how much she loved her job and how her former students would come back and tell her that she was the best teacher they had ever had. I wanted to have that same impact in the lives of children.”
Her selection as the J.D. Lever Elementary Teacher of the Year marks the second time in her career that she has earned such an honor.
J.D. Lever Principal Cathy Ellis says Ms. Bynes continues to mirror those important lessons learned years ago as a second grade student today in her own classroom.
“Ms. Bynes is a remarkable educator who continuously reflects, researches, and collaborates with her colleagues to plan outstanding, engaging lessons,” Ms. Ellis stated. “She creates an environment where learning comes to life for her students and she creates a culture of high expectations and community within her classroom.”
For Ms. Bynes, teaching is about passing on those lessons to the next generation.
“I became a teacher because someone taught me,” Bynes says of her decision to teach. “I teach because someone helped me get where I am today and never gave up on me. I teach because I want to make a positive contribution to the world and it begins with our children.”