May 11 marked one night that many area teachers took time off from grading papers, planning lessons and contacting parents. More than 75 education professionals involved in the selection process for the Georgetown County School District’s Teacher of the Year program gathered to celebrate the teaching profession and to honor the newly-chosen 2017 Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Hudson.

Holding back tears--but accepting congratulatory handshakes and hugs—the Pleasant Hill Elementary third-grade teacher accepted the award saying, “As a product of Georgetown County Schools, I am humbled, grateful and very honored.”

Hudson said she has wanted to be District Teacher of the Year since her days at Rosemary Middle School when she volunteered in the Service Over Self program.

“And here I am,” Hudson continued, “five years into the profession and I thank God, my family, my Pleasant Hill family, and my friends for encouraging me along the way.” Hudson reflected on those teachers and administrators who touched her life and elaborated, “I pray that I can continue to pass the torch to each and every one of our children and let them know the impossible is possible if you believe in yourself.”

The 2006 Andrews High School alumna earned her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership from Coastal Carolina University. The 38th Georgetown County Teacher of the Year is currently pursuing an additional degree as an Educational Specialist in Instructional Technology. “I enjoy children in every aspect of my life,” Hudson said in a follow-up interview, “and it really does take a village to raise a child.” The next step for her is the South Carolina statewide Teacher of the Year competition which she will be pursuing this fall.

GCSD Director of Human Resources Doug Jenkins opened the recognition banquet that was held at the Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort in Pawleys Island.

“It is said that a teacher presents the past, reveals the present and creates the future,” Jenkins said.

The four-month Teacher of the Year selection process began in January when each of the district’s twenty schools from elementary to high school named one teacher in each facility. This teacher, elected by colleagues at their various locations, then underwent rigorous interviews and observations to narrow the overall candidate number down to five. Those five finalists, once informed, were asked to submit professional portfolios which were read closely by the three portfolio committee members.

Four of the five finalists were elementary school teachers this year: Lori Harper of Andrews Elementary, Jennifer Crocker of Kensington Elementary, Breann Ethridge of Maryville Elementary and Jennifer Hudson of Pleasant Hill Elementary. Johanna Verner represented Waccamaw Intermediate School.

During the banquet, music instructor Olivia Powell Huggins led the Andrews High School chorus as they sang selections they had rehearsed for the occasion. Beginning with “Skye Boat Song”, the choral group also performed “God Only Knows” and “Give us Hope”, entertaining dining room guests eager for the most highly-anticipated portion of the evening. Huggins noted, “This was our first time performing for the Teacher of the Year Banquet and I am very proud of our students.”

Georgetown County 2016-2017 Teacher of the Year Ashton Lee-Goretzke spoke encouragingly about the teaching profession, underscoring School Board Chairman Jim Dumm’s earlier remarks about the challenges and difficulties teachers face daily. “Tonight is not about me, but about teacher heroes who are in this very room,” Lee-Goretzke stated before all 20 nominees from all areas of the Georgetown County School District were formally introduced along with their respective school principals.

GCSD Superintendent Randy Dozier and Executive Director for Student Performance and Federal Programs, Patti Hammel recognized all honorees as they received awards from business sponsors, Georgetown Kraft Credit Union and Santee Cooper. Gift bags were presented to each of the five finalists, counting down the final suspenseful moments before Hammel announced the recipient of 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year title.

Hudson’s supervisor, Pleasant Hill Elementary Principal Teddy Graham said of Ms. Hudson’s victory, “I’m very proud of her. She is very hard-working and dedicated, probably the most driven person I’ve met. She’s worked hard to achieve this and the whole school is very proud of her.”

Dozier ended the evening by offering his congratulations to the winner and thanked the sponsors for their generosity. “They’re all exceptional teachers,” Dozier acknowledged. “The interesting thing is a lot are home-grown.”