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Aiken High School's Carina McGee Named First Year Teacher of the Year

Aiken High School Teacher Carina McGee was summoned to colleague Francesca Pataro’s classroom for what she thought was an important meeting of the school’s English Department. 

McGee was stunned to learn the meeting’s urgency had nothing at all to do with English and instead everything to do with Aiken County Superintendent King Laurence congratulating her on being named as the school district’s First Year Teacher of the Year.

“I'm honored and grateful that I've been able to do so much good for my students and my school already, even as I know I have plenty more to learn throughout the rest of my career,” stated McGee, who wiped away tears during the celebration with her husband, Alex, standing by her side.

McGee says her students are a source of joy for her even during challenging moments.

“The students, by far, are the most important thing about teaching,” commented McGee. “I like to say that I teach humans first and English second, and as much as it's a fun statement, it really is true; my students are the reason I went into this profession in the first place, and they're the reason I keep pushing through the stress and enjoy going to work each day.”

Aiken High School Principal Dr. Jason Holt says he had a sense immediately upon meeting McGee for the first time that she would be a terrific teacher and a great asset for the school.

“There was a moment at the beginning of the year when she was struggling to find the best way to help a specific student and she proactively reached out to me to find whatever was needed to help that student learn and feel safe,” stated Holt. “That was in the second week of me even knowing her and I knew she was someone special at that point.” 

Holt says he has also been impressed by McGee’s ability to maximize collaboration with others for the betterment of her students.

“She truly is the future of education,” added Holt. “She has all of the energy, drive, and capacity to really go above and beyond what a teacher does from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. She is constantly trying to do what’s best for her students and she really brings a collaborative presence to what she does. She listens to different opinions and tries to collaborate and build consensus and that really encapsulates her.”

McGee says a difficult school year with a unique set of challenges means that self-care has taken on an increased importance for teachers if they wish to give their best to students. She encourages her colleagues to take care of themselves so they can, in turn, care for others.

“Making sure your students know that they are heard, they are welcomed, and they are cared for is the most important standard for any lesson,” commented McGee. “But make sure that you take care of yourself before you focus on taking care of others – you can't keep giving from an empty cup.”

The First Year Teacher of the Year Honor Court included Carina McGee, Natalie Hornsby of South Aiken High School, and Briante Perkins of Kennedy Middle School.

The Aiken County Public Schools’ School-Level First Year Teachers of the Year include Xiomarra Beverly (Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle); Haley Butler (Jefferson Elementary); Jeffrey Campbell (Schofield Middle); Ayron Dupert (Midland Valley High); Samantha Gentry (Leavelle McCampbell Middle); Brianna Hancock (Oakwood-Windsor Elementary); Natalie Hornsby (South Aiken High); James Howard (Jackson STEM Middle Magnet School); Carina McGee (Aiken High); Penny Miles (Ridge Spring-Monetta Middle); Kaitlin Milligan (Chukker Creek Elementary); Natalie Moffett (New Ellenton Middle STEAM Magnet School); Samantha Newcomb (North Augusta High); Jordan Nix (North Aiken Elementary); Amber Payne (Busbee Elementary); Briante Perkins (Kennedy Middle); Ashley Pope (Mossy Creek Elementary); Kathleen Reynolds (Greendale Elementary); Haley Roberts (J.D. Lever Elementary); Courtney Robinson (Millbrook Elementary); Deanna Simmons (Gloverville Elementary); Rebekah Shaw (East Aiken School of the Arts); Matthew Smith (Aiken County Career & Technology Center); Nancy Tyner (Warrenville Elementary); Tylar Veurink (Paul Knox Middle); and Abbe Webb (Redcliffe Elementary).

Thank you to our 2020 Stars of Public Education sponsors, including Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, Public Education Partners, SRP Federal Credit Union, Security Federal, Rhodes Graduation Services, H.G. Reynolds Construction, Peach State Federal Credit Union, Hunt Insurance & Retirement Services, Economic Development Partnership, East Aiken School of the Arts PTO, Greendale Elementary School PTO, Aiken High Booster Club, J.D. Lever Elementary School PTO, Busbee Elementary School PTO, Jefferson Elementary School PTO, New Ellenton STEAM Middle Magnet School PTO, Schofield Middle School PTO, Silver Bluff High School PTO, and the Hammond Hill Elementary School PTO.

LINK TO DISTRICT PRESS RELEASE: 2020 PR AIKEN HIGH FYTOY WINNER

ACPSD Communications Department