After teaching first grade at a bilingual mission school in Honduras, Pee Dee Elementary Teacher of the Year Beth Hendrick decided teaching was what she wanted to do with her life.
“It was just eye-opening. I realized it was my passion,” Hendrick said.
She currently is the school’s ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) teacher for all grade levels, and she heard over the intercom one day that they were announcing the Teacher of the Year.
“I thought I must not have gotten it, because I thought they might have told the winner before they announced it to everyone, but as they were announcing it, all the administrators came in with flowers,” Hendrick said.
Her kindergarten-aged ESOL students were not sure what to make of the commotion, but clapped and realized it was a happy event.
“They were figuring out what was going on, but they knew it was something to be excited about,” Hendrick said. “It was a defining moment in my career. I was surprised, and just elated that the school chose to vote for me, and believe in me.”
Born and raised in Horry County, Hendrick attended Winthrop University for her undergraduate degree in elementary education, and graduated during a time when it was hard to find a job as a teacher.
“I thought, instead of fighting for a job, let’s go somewhere and travel,” Hendrick said.
She ended up in the classroom in Honduras and the rest was history.
Hendrick headed to the College of Charleston for her master’s degree in teaching language learners, and got some experience in the general education classroom and made the switch to ESOL.
Students in her classroom are 99% native Spanish-speakers, but she also recently had students from Turkey, Brazil, and India.
“My goal is to get them to be proficient in English so that they can be successful in their classes,” Hendrick said.
She said she feels like she “has the best kids in the whole school”, and loves her students.
“I feel like they just make everything worth it. Just seeing those lightbulbs every day and really helping them to be successful,” Hendrick said. “We know how important education is, but [so is] just trying to get them to realize that they ‘can’, and empower them to just be successful and figure out what their passion is, and their purpose in the world.”
Hendrick is married to her husband, Brian, who she said is her “number one encourager” since the beginning of her career. She also has two sons, Noah (5) and Luke (3).
She and her family are very involved in their church, Christ United, and she likes to exercise, cook, and enjoy the outdoors with her family.
“It’s nice to unplug and take a break,” she said.
Principal Christina Plowman-Render said Hendrick is one of the most genuine people she’s ever met.
“She is positive, loving, and a fabulous teacher,” Plowman-Render said. “She has put cooperative learning structures in place in her classroom in a way that very effectively creates a safe environment for our English Learner students. She is also invested in the success of our English Learners in the general education classroom, and works to ensure teachers have the support they need in the classroom. She is very deserving of the honor, and we are PDE proud!”
Hendrick said she knows the classroom is where she is meant to be.
“I’m driven every day because God has called me to be a teacher and it’s part of my life’s purpose. This gives me a passion for what I do every day,” Hendrick said.