One of the keys to students' success has nothing to do with what they find in books, said Kelli Roberson, the Berkeley County School District's 2010 Teacher of the Year.
Building strong relationships with students is essential to them being able to absorb what's presented in the classroom, said Roberson, who teaches sixth-grade language arts and social studies at College Park Middle School.
Superintendent Anthony Parker announced at a breakfast gathering Thursday at Trident Technical College that Roberson had won the district's top teaching honor from among three finalists.
"This is one of those 'wow' moments," Roberson said, when she learned that she had been selected.
Roberson is a graduate of Trident Technical College and the College of Charleston.
Her principal, Ingrid Dukes, in written comments for the presentation, called Roberson "an advocate for education."
A six-member team that observed the finalists working with students in their classrooms found that Roberson created an atmosphere where the children felt comfortable expressing their thoughts, free from worry about whether they were right or wrong.
That's essential to learning, said Roberson, who's married and the mother of two high-school-age children.
And it's easy for her to do. "I treat my students the way I would want my children treated in class," she said.
The top teachers from each of the district's 39 schools also were honored Thursday. A team screened the applicants and narrowed the list to eight semifinalists.
Another team determined the three finalists, of which Roberson was one. The others were Jessica Clayton, an English teacher at Hanahan High School, and Nick Geary, an English and creative writing teacher at Goose Creek High School.
Roberson has been teaching at College Park Middle for about 10 years. When she came in for an interview nearly a decade ago, she said, "I knew it was where I belonged."
She demonstrates to her students that she values learning. Roberson earned National Board Certification, one of teaching's top credentials, in 2008. And she's working on her master's degree in educational administration at The Citadel.
"I don't have any desire to leave the classroom right now," she said, "but I'm always looking for opportunities to grow."
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.