S.C Teacher of Year to Tour in BMW Z3 Roadster
Christi Wiggins McCollum, who has been named 2002-2003 South Carolina Teacher of the Year, will travel the state in a dark green BMW roadster during her year-long sabbatical from the classroom to represent the state’s 50,000 teachers.
McCollum teaches fifth grade at Bookman Road Elementary School in Richland School District Two. In addition to the sabbatical and the use of the Z3 roadster for a year, she received a $25,000 cash award from the state Department of Education.
“Christi’s students would tell you that she is not a typical teacher,” said state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum. “She steps out of the traditional way of teaching and turns on students’ lights of understanding. Real learning for real life is at the heart of what she does. She wants her students to be able to apply what they learn in the classroom.”
At the core of our education reform efforts is the professional development of teachers,” S.C. Governor Jim Hodges said. “Developing strong teachers is the surest way to advance student achievement.”
As a high school student in Charleston County, McCollum had teachers who tried to direct her toward piano scholarships and music schools. During her undergraduate career at Winthrop University, she spent much of her time working with emotionally handicapped students in Rock Hill-area psychiatric hospitals. There she learned that children had to have an emotionally safe place to learn if they were going to be successful.
That knowledge transformed her as a teacher in the early 1990s when she taught in rural Mullins, South Carolina.
McCollum instituted a daily “family circle” of sharing with her students that promoted open dialogue and listening. The circle helped to establish mutual respect and trust that nurtured the seeds of learning. She found that her students wanted to learn but had not been provided with a learning environment and structure that promoted learning. Parents began coming to school – and to her home – with their children and they built relationships that strengthened the bond of learning. She saw her students’ test scores soar from the 15th percentile to over the 85th percentile.
McCollum likens her work to that of an artist. Just as with every stroke of the brush the picture changes until the masterpiece is created, each day in her classroom brings refinement and new techniques to enhance the beauty of the canvases of children’s lives.
“Although I may never see the finished portrait, I know that my time with them is as valuable as that of the artists’ first strokes with his brush,” she said.
A strong proponent of character education, McCollum has helped other teachers from across the state integrate character education into the curriculum. She says that her joy comes from her actions and attitudes.
“I want my students to know that knowledge without goodness is wasted,” she said. “I want them to know that good character speaks volumes about who they are as persons. Educators need to help students internalize character. We must also teach students how to resolve conflict peacefully and show tolerance for those who hold different views or who look or act differently from them.”
McCollum’s dedication goes beyond the school walls to include her entire community. She wrote a $15,000 grant that led to a community-wide celebration that strengthened her school’s bond with the surrounding neighborhoods.
She also leads Bookman Road students in a bake sale to raise funds for Camp Kemo, which serves children with cancer. At Christmas, she and her husband have tried to teach their own children that giving is what life is all about. The family decorates bags with Christmas messages, fills them with fruit, food, gloves and socks and delivers them to Oliver Gospel Mission.
A statewide staff development leader, McCollum has conducted workshops on character education, reading and rural education. In March 2001, she was named a recipient of Time magazine’s Southeastern Regional Teaching Excellence award. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Winthrop University and is pursuing a master’s degree in school administration at the University of South Carolina.
BMW Manufacturing was the presenting sponsor for the Teacher of the Year banquet. Other supporting sponsors include Blue Cross Blue Shield of S.C.; Michelin North America Inc.; The R. L. Bryan Co.; SMART Technologies, Inc.; SMI Steel South Carolina; Time Warner; Bank of America; Barnett Foundation; CP&L; Duke Power; McNair Law Firm. P.A.; Sisters of Charity, Providence Hospitals; Publix Super Markets; Inc.; Santee Cooper; SCANA, Alcoa Mt. Holly; Barrett Design; Chem-Nuclear Systems, LLC; Childs & Halligan Attorneys at Law; The Daniel Island Foundation; Ducane Gas Grills, Inc.; Duff, Turner, White & Boykin, LLC; Fowler Communications, Inc.; Fuji Photo Film, Inc.; Global Performance; Inman Riverdale Foundation; The M.B. Kahn Foundation; Palmer Mortuary Corp.; Palmetto Party Rentals; Piedmont Natural Gas Co.; Rieter Automotive Systems; Spinx Oil Co.; Three Rivers Center for Behavioral Health; Wachovia Bank; and Zucker Family Foundation, Inc.