Lexington District Three announces its Teacher of the Year

Allison Cook, the Lexington School District Three Teacher of the Year, is honored by Ben Herlong of Herlong Chevrolet-Buick during ceremonies Thursday. Ms. Cook, as District Teacher of the Year, received use of a new car for the 2019-2020 school year. (Staff photo by Tony Baughman)

The Lexington County School District Three has named Batesburg-Leesville High School science teacher Allison Cook as the 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year.

Teacher of the Year finalists for Lexington District Three were Allison Cook, Kristen Pugh, and Kimberly Lawson, and Michelle Maroney.

The announcement was made at a special banquet held last Thursday night at Southern Occasions in the Batesburg Business District.

“I am extremely proud. She’s an awesome teacher, as good as I’ve ever seen,” said Sonya Bryant, principal at Batesburg-Leeville High following the banquet. “I can say that as her principal, and I can also say that as the mother of one of her students.”

Ms. Cook is in her fourth year teaching science in Lexington District Three. According to her biography printed in the ceremony’s program, “She says one of the things that stands out most to her about the district is the collaborative and supportive culture that’s created by her colleagues and the administrators at B-L High School.”

“She believes it’s her duty as an educator to first love and care for her students so that she can better understand what it is that each of them is bringing to class and so that she can cater learning to their specific characteristics, traits and interests,” District public information officer Mackenzie Taylor said in her introduction at the banquet.

Lexington Three is one of only a handful of school districts around the state whose Teacher of the Year is provided a vehicle to drive during her recognition year. Ben Herlong of Herlong Chevrolet-Buick in Batesburg-Leesville was on-hand present use of a Chevrolet Malibu as a courtesy vehicle that Ms. Cook will be able to use during the 2019-2020 school year.

The other school-level Teacher of the Year finalists for Lexington District Three were Michelle Maroney, a 20-year veteran teacher who works as a literacy coach at Batesburg-Leesville Primary; Kristen Pugh, in her second year as a general music teacher at Batesburg-Leesville Elementary; and Kimberly Lawson, now in her fifth year of teaching seventh grade at Batesburg-Leesville Middle. All were honored with prizes donated by local merchants and a biographical video played at the event, spotlighting their achievements.

“My biggest hope for my students is that they find success, and that success looks different for everybody,” Ms. Cook said in her video interview. “So, I don’t want to put them in a box and force them to find success that I see as being successful.”

The keynote speaker for the banquet was Craig Q. King, Director of Teacher Leadership for the Palmetto State Teachers Association and a motivational speaker. He acknowledged each of the school-level nominees as “phenomenal in the classroom” and said they each “have something to give” not just to their students but also to fellow educators.

“This recognition validates who you are as an instructional leader,” Mr. King said. “It’s so important that you share that gift with those in your school and here in this great school district, with what you have inside of you as an instructional leader.”

Mrs. Bryant agreed that Ms. Cook’s teacher leadership stands as a shining example to which other educators in the district and elsewhere in the education field may aspire.

“She is the exemplar of that,” the principal said. “Service leadership, instructional leadership – she demonstrates that in our building every single day, and she is one of the people who make Lexington Three a great place to be.”

Story by Tony Baughman / Published October 3, 2019