COLUMBIA - A special education teacher from Horry County has been named South Carolina's Teacher of the Year.
Jennifer Ainsworth of Socastee High School was announced as the winner in Columbia on Wednesday night. She was among five finalists from across the state.
Ainsworth said her inspirations are her 96-year-old grandmother, her late mother and her former class teaching assistant who died last year.
Ainsworth receives $25,000 as well as a new BMW to use for one year. She will participate in a residency program at the state's Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement as well as being a member of next year's class of Leadership South Carolina.
She succeeds Darleen Sutton, a first-grade teacher at Pickens Elementary School, as Teacher of the Year.
The other finalists each receive $10,000:
- John Dearybury, a second-grade teacher at Woodland Heights Elementary School, Spartanburg School District 6.
- Rhonda Hudak, a seventh-grade English language arts teacher at Rawlinson Road Middle School, Rock Hill School District 3.
- Patrick Kelly, a twelfth-grade Advanced Placement U.S. government and politics teacher at Blythewood High School, Richland School District 2.
- Vivian Tuten, a special education teacher at Swansea High School, Lexington School District 4.