College of Charleston Consistently Produces Teachers of the Year

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In the past five years nearly 200 alumni have been recognized as Teacher of the Year or Rookie Teacher of the Year. This year, all Top Five Finalists for Teacher of the Year are CofC alumni.

Teachers shape the way students view and interact with the world. They are a constant presence in student’s lives, showing up every day to prepare students to be successful in the world. Much of the work teachers do is invisible, which is why recognizing those teachers is so important.

That’s why the Charleston County School District (CCSD) recognizes teachers who go above and beyond every single year by naming the Top Five Finalists for Teacher of the Year. And, in the past five years nearly 200 alumni from the School of Education have been recognized as Teacher of the Year or Rookie Teacher of the Year.

RELATED: Listen to this episode of the Inside the College of Charleston podcast featuring School of Education Dean Fran Welch.

“Our graduates consistently earn teaching awards and positively contribute to the well-being and futures of their communities, embodying our motto – #GreatTeachersMadeHere,” says Kevin Eakes, associate dean of the School of Education.

This year, the Top Five Finalists for Teacher of the Year are all College of Charleston graduates: Grace Barry ’17, Septima P. Clark Academy; David Bonezzi ’20, Carolina Park Elementary School; McKenna Hakanson ’23 (M.Ed.), North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary School; Julia Royall ’02, West Ashley High School; and Stevie Shirey ’00, North Charleston High School.

(l–r): Grace Barry, David Bonezzi, Julia Royall and Stevie Shirey

And, last month, Hakason was officially named the CCSD 2024 Teacher of the Year.

McKenna Hakanson ’23

Hakason, a special education teacher, came to the College through a CCSD cohort of teachers working toward special education certification. After completing the program, she stayed at the College to get her Master of Education in Teaching, Learning and Advocacy, where she was named Outstanding Graduate Student.

“The College of Charleston gave me an amazing opportunity to transition from a general education teacher to a special education teacher through their cohort program with CCSD,” says Hakason, noting that the Teaching, Learning and Advocacy program “helped me grow not only an educator, but as an advocate for other teachers, students, families and myself. I’ve been able to implement so many of the skills I learned from the program in my role as an exceptional children resource teacher and department lead.

“I love having the chance to show future teachers the rewarding aspects of the job as well as supporting them with strategies to face some of the more difficult aspects of being an educator,” continues Hakason, who served as the cooperating teacher for Isabel “Izzy” Smith ’23, a special education major, during her tenure at the College. Smith has just been named the Beaufort County (S.C.) School District Induction Teacher of the Year. “I am so proud that her skills and passion were rightfully recognized and celebrated in her first year of teaching!”

Teachers like Hakason are great examples of the expertise fostered by the College’s teacher education program. Well over 100 new teachers graduate from the program every year. On average, 87% start working in schools immediately following graduation, with over 60% choosing to remain in the Lowcountry, positively impacting the next generation of young minds.

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