Teacher of the Year Candidate Gail Edrington lives out the Fairfield Elementary School slogan of every child, every chance, every day.
She works hard with her first graders telling them if they didn’t get a particular skill today that tomorrow is a new day.
For Edrington her school days were full of joy. She said she even attended school when she was sick.
During her kindergarten through 12th grade years the only time she missed was mandated when she got the mumps.
One of the most influential teachers she met during that time taught her third grade, Evelyn Henry. Henry later would become a school principal.
“She pushed me to go above and beyond,” Edrington said.
While teaching first grade at Fairfield Elementary, she teaches all subjects but her passion is for language arts and teaching children to read.
“The first thing I do is let them know that I love them and I am their mother away from home,” she said. “I encourage them that they can be anything they want to be. All I ask is that they try.”
She said a big challenge in the profession is trying to get the students to understand how important the first grade is as a stepping stone for their entire academic careers. She also works hard to make them learn to love reading, especially reluctant readers.
“We may not have the opportunity to travel the world but when you read you can go places through books,” she said.
Edrington notes that all education is built upon the foundation of reading skills, so that is a main focus of her teaching.
Her students participate in Reading Counts, where they keep records of the books they read and earn points. Each child has a nine weeks goal set for the book points and she gives them rewards for meeting their reading goals.
She said this past year her students did more hands-on work as part of the Highly Effective Teaching Model used by the school.
It focused on changing the environment to suit the learner, on talking, thinking, sharing and on creative thinking. Another way she has pursued her passion for teaching reading is through the Students Achieving in Literacy program.
In the SAIL program students break into small groups with Edrington, a colleague teacher and two retired teachers offering one-on-one instruction.
Edrington said her greatest success as an educator is “when I have a student come to me who is not reading on grade level but when they leave they are on grade level or they have made significant gains in reading.”
She also treasures the hugs former students give her when they see her about town.
A quote she holds dear in that children are the best investment that pays the most interest. She has experienced children in a variety of settings during her 16 years in education. She has worked entirely in Fairfield County during that time.
She began as a bus driver and then transitioned into working with the Start As Readiness assistant for grades one through 6 at McCrorey Liston Elementary in Blair. At the urging of principal Carl Johnson, she began her teaching certificate in 1999 and completed her degree from South Carolina State University in 2004.
She recalls a time when education was different than it is today. School was more of a community and a family and everybody took care of each other.
“Parents cared a lot in years past about children getting and education,” she said. “We need to put the focus back on our children and put them first from an educational standpoint (as a community).”
She sees her role as educator being a far reaching one that will help lay the foundation for years of future success in Fairfield County.