Charleston native Nancy Dabit decided to teach here because she wanted to give back to the place that gave her so much.
Her hometown school district returned the favor Friday night by naming her Charleston County Teacher of the Year.
“She’s just the epitome of a teacher,” said Anna Dassing, principal of Moultrie Middle School, where Dabit teaches sixth-graders.
Dabit, 28, covered her mouth in surprise as the announcement was made in front of thousands at the RiverDogs baseball game. She laughed and threw her hands up in the air and waved to the students, friends and family who came out to support her.
“It was just incredible,” the English/language arts teacher said minutes later. “If you talk to me tomorrow, I’ll construct a really good sentence for you.”
Dabit will receive a one year’s lease on a car from Volvo of Charleston, which has supported the district Teacher of the Year program for a decade. She also will receive $250 from Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union and be the district’s nominee in the state competition.
Dabit is in her fifth year of teaching. She attended James Island public schools, graduated from James Island High, and earned her bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston. She taught for a couple of years in Loudoun County, Va., before moving back to Charleston, and she’s been teaching at Moultrie Middle since 2009.
Sixth-grader Holden Mikola was one of the students who was in the stands cheering for Dabit. He knew the district winner would be announced at the game, so he asked his Mom to go because he wanted to see whether Dabit won.
“She’s one of my favorite teachers,” he said. “She’s really nice, and she cares about the students more than the others.”
Dassing said students run to get to Dabit’s class. Students know they’re going to be engaged, and they want to know what the day’s lesson will be, she said.
“She’s that teacher who stays late, comes early, and comes to all the events we do,” Dassing said. “She’s fabulous.”
Outside of the classroom, Dabit is the co-director of the Lowcountry Writing Project, and she sponsors the school yearbook. She’s also working on her National Board Certification.
Dabit was a standout student at the College of Charleston, and she won the college’s first scholarship that goes to a senior education major who plans to teach after graduation. Fran Welch, the education college’s dean, came to the announcement and smiled at the celebration around Dabit.
Dabit, a minority member and the daughter of first-generation immigrants, said in her application for Teacher of the Year that her deep understanding of diversity was one of her greatest contributions to the classroom. She said she understands firsthand what it means to feel different, and she makes sure her classroom celebrates diversity.
“As Charleston County Teacher of the Year, my message to both my profession and the general public would be that all children of all backgrounds have the equal right to learn a challenging curriculum that will deeply prepare them to become active members of our society while empowering them to prosper in our global economy and benefit from post-secondary education,” she wrote.
The runner-up was Bill Howard, an eighth-grade science teacher at Cario Middle in Mount Pleasant. The other three district finalists were Jeneane Grace from Pinehurst Elementary in North Charleston, Elizabeth Helen Parker from Pinckney Elementary in Mount Pleasant, and Laura Stanley from Daniel Jenkins Academy in North Charleston.
Reach Diette Courrégé at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.