A festive atmosphere filled Orangeburg County School District headquarters Friday morning as the district named its teacher and support staff of the year for 2021-2022.

Hunter-Kinard-Tyler Middle/High School Social Studies teacher Ruby Marie Hallman was named the Teacher of the Year and Edisto Elementary Computer Lab Teacher Assistant Briana Berry was named Support Staff of the Year.

“I want my H-K-T family to know that this is our honor,” Hallman said. “Last year was a tough year for us. We pulled it together and we did what we had to. We buckled down.”

Hallman originally wanted to go to law and possibly the FBI.

“People make plans and God laughs,” Hallman said. “Every single time I tried to steer myself towards something, I was steered back into the classroom. I always came back.”

“My students are my life. They come first,” she continued. “Anything I can do to help them, I will be there fighting for them every step of the way.”

Hallman has been a teacher for the past 35 years. This is her 33rd year at H-K-T.

Berry gave honor to God, school leaders, board members and her Edisto Elementary School Cougar family for the recognition.

“I am ready to continue to serve the Orangeburg County School District,” Berry said. “I am ready to continue to encourage, to inspire and to continue making a difference in the lives of every child I come into contact with.”

Berry gave a shout out to her late mother, who died six years ago, and mother figure and school counselor Angela Gordon.

“I am ready to serve and I believe this year is going to be one of the best years we have had yet,” Berry said. “I do declare, the storm is over now.”

Hallman and Berry each received a new car donated by Nissan of Orangeburg for their achievement.

The women had a choice of three vehicles – a Nissan Altima, a Nissan Titan and a Nissan Rogue.

Berry chose the Nissan Altima and Hallman chose the Nissan Titan.

Orangeburg County School District officials believe the district is the first to ever to present a new car to a Support Staff of the Year winner.

Dover Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Alexandria Booth Swearingen was named Alternate District Teacher of the Year and Office of Instructional Technology System Analyst Lois Preast was named Alternate Support Staff of the Year.

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Swearingen and Preast each received $1,000 from Nissan.

All four also received rings from Jostens commemorating their achievements.

The district also recognized the remaining three finalists for Teacher of the Year and Support Staff of the Year.

The other finalists for Teacher of the Year include:

• Latoya Glen – Teacher, instructional coach at Marshall Elementary

• Kimberli Russell – Kindergarten teacher at Edisto Primary

• Faye Thompson – Third-grade teacher at Whittaker Elementary

The other finalists for Support Staff of the Year:

• Quiana Green – Secretary and bookkeeper at Mellichamp Elementary

• Melissa Kinard – School nurse at Edisto High and Cope Career Center

• Mildred Scoville – Executive assistant in the West District Office

They each received $500.

Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster compared teachers to farmers. “We grow children. Those children then go out and serve the world. If we fail to grow our children, then society starves,” he said.

“Thank you not only being a teacher but thank you for tilling those classrooms,” he said. “Thank you harvesting those crops and going back and replanting when sometimes the flood changes everything that you have done.”

“Thank you for sending those crops out in this world to do what this world needs,” Foster said.

OCSD board Chair Ruby Edwards said, “Congratulations to everyone here this morning.

“We need you to make sure our children get exactly what they need each and every day.”

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