Harold Tabor was committed to traveling to Michigan to recruit potential teachers for the Berkeley County School District, a role he looks forward to every year.
But Tabor's annual recruiting trip was scheduled for the same week as Berkeley's teacher of the year breakfast, and the Berkeley High School special-education teacher had been selected as one of three finalists for the award.
Last week, Tabor received a call from district officials. They had rebooked his flight so he would return to Charleston late Wednesday night, in time to attend Thursday morning's ceremony at Trident Technical College.
Tabor came to the breakfast after only a few hours of sleep, but he found out the sacrifice was worth it when he was named the district's 2008 Teacher of the Year.
After Superintendent Chester Floyd announced his name, Tabor received hugs, handshakes and a standing ovation as he approached the podium.
"Wow," he said. "I think, for the first time, I'm speechless."
Tabor is the first male instructor named as the district's teacher of the year in the past 15 years, and he's only the third male winner in the district's history.
Tabor said he's proud to represent an "amazing" group of 36 school-level teacher of the year winners, all of whom received cash awards, certificates from the state House and Senate, gifts and small trophies at the breakfast sponsored by the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce, Santee Cooper and Trident Tech.
He said it's a thrill to be "recognized for doing what I love to do." As a special-education teacher, he aims to provide the best education possible for every child, no matter what the student's abilities are.
At Berkeley High, Tabor leads a classroom of students with moderate to severe disabilities and also serves as the school's special- education department chairman. He previously worked as a transition specialist at the school, where he connected special-education students with jobs in the community that fit their skills.
Berkeley High Principal Kim McLaren said Tabor is determined to help his students succeed in school and in the workforce. "The award couldn't go to a more deserving person," she said.
Tabor's dedication extends into the summer months, where he organizes and runs a residential summer camp for 80 adults with disabilities.
His wife, Margaret, works at the Berkeley district office as a coordinator for teacher evaluations. Margaret Tabor, who was a teacher of the year finalist in 1996, wiped away tears as her husband accepted this year's honor.
Dottie Adams, a science teacher at College Park Middle School, and Creighton Eddings, a guidance counselor at Devon Forest Elementary, were finalists for the award this year. Tabor and the two finalists were handed Oscar-like gold statues to commemorate their accomplishment.
Other Lowcountry school districts are scheduled to announce their district teacher of the year winners in the upcoming weeks.