When she was a little girl, Jaime Cunningham dreamed of being a teacher. As the daughter of a teacher, Cunningham would spend hours instructing invisible students in her mother's kindergarten classroom.
Cunningham's dream of being an educator was taken to new heights on Thursday night when Charleston County School District officials announced she had been selected as the district's Teacher of the Year. The award was bestowed during a Charleston RiverDogs game at Riley Park.
As Teacher of the Year, Cunningham will receive a one-year lease on a Mini Cooper, a commemorative ring from Jostens and a $250 gift card from Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union.
Cunningham is a special education teacher at Liberty Hill Academy where she educates students in grades 6-8 with emotional and intellectual disabilities.
In her application for the teaching award, Cunningham said that teaching students with severe behavioral problems requires her to understand the whole student and the student's family.
"This challenging work blossoms into great success every time a student chooses a safer, more positive behavior," she wrote.
Cunningham's dedication to her students has earned her the respect of her peers, three of whom wrote letters of recommendation for the award.
Liberty Hill Principal Sarah Jamme said Cunningham has a powerful ability to motivate and inspire her students to learn.
"I am still mesmerized when I enter Ms. Cunningham's classroom and see some of the most challenged students in Charleston County excited to begin a new day," Jamme wrote in a letter of recommendation.
The runner-up was Misty LeClerc of Wando High School. Other finalists for the district's top teaching award were Kimberly Brown of Lincoln Middle-High; Emma Armstrong of St. James-Santee Elementary; and Charles Atkins of Sanders-Clyde Creative Arts.