Wade Spees // The Post and Courier

With finalists and school officials watching, Oakbrook Middle School’s Amy Baldwin is honored as Dorchester District 2 Teacher of the Year on Thursday night at Ashley Ridge High School.

SUMMERVILLE -- Many educators choose to teach subjects at which they excelled.

But Amy Baldwin, Dorchester District 2's new Teacher of the Year, teaches math, a subject she found challenging.

Baldwin, who teaches seventh-graders at Oakbrook Middle School, said she didn't always understand math lessons when they were taught in the traditional way. "I was the 'why' kid," she said, always asking questions and struggling to understand.

But now, when her students struggle with numerical concepts, she knows how to help them.

"I love those little light-bulb moments when they get it," she said Thursday night at the district's award ceremony at Ashley Ridge High School. "That's what I do this for every day."

Baldwin, who has been teaching math at Oakbrook Middle for the past 11 years, has said an effective teacher is not only an educator but also a surrogate parent, psychologist, caseworker and magician.

She has a long history with her school. It's where she attended middle school, and her mother has taught there for the past 20 years. "That's my home," Baldwin said. "They are my family."

Baldwin's mother, English teacher Jan Wolfe, said her daughter makes sure every student understands the lesson. And she puts in many hours of her own time preparing lessons.

Oakbrook Middle Principal Garland Crump said Baldwin "has a heart, soul and passion for her work." She motivates each child to "reach beyond their grasp," he said. "It's a gift."Baldwin graduated from Charleston Southern University with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education.

She also has earned National Board Certification, teaching's top credential, and is certified to teach gifted and talented students.

The other 2011 Teacher of the Year finalists were Shelly Bostwick, technology integration specialist at Eagle Nest Elementary School; Leslie Gilreath, band and instrumental music teacher at Summerville High School; Nathaniel Harris, social studies teacher at Ashley Ridge High School; and Jeni Nix, media specialist at Knightsville Elementary School.