Sunni Blanton is the kind of teacher students call “cool.”
She wears cami, she rocks her shoulder-length ‘fro, and hey, her husband Greg is a sushi chef.
Teaching media arts at Black Water Middle School, where she’s teacher of the year, is a second career for Blanton, nee graphic designer.
“I was a graphic designer for 15 years, and then I grew up again,” she says.
In her graphic design life, she worked for a daily newspaper, for a billboard company and for an ad agency.
“But then I had my babies,” she says.
The Blantons, married 14 years, have a 9-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter. When the kids were young, Blanton realized she wanted to spend more time with them than graphic design allowed.
Now, with summers off, and on a schedule much like her children’s, she has that time with them.
And needs it, she says, because teaching, which she’s been doing for six years, is the hardest job she’s ever had.
“Every day we get done as much as possible, but that’s always imperfect. When I leave school, I have nothing left, I give it all to these little humans,” she says.
Having grown up a middle child in Green Sea, Blanton’s older sister is a school counselor and her younger brother works with Spectrum.
Her father teaches at Tabor Correctional Institution, helping inmates get their GEDs, and her mother is a bookkeeper.
Blanton says she’s teaching her middle school students what she learned in college, which is everything from software to typography to knowing how to target audiences.
“When they leave eighth grade, they leave with digital portfolios showing their growth from sixth to eighth grades,” she says.
Having learned from her own children, she knows well what middle schoolers need, and Blanton says it’s more than art.
“My philosophy is that in this room, I want them to de-stress,” she says. “I want them to know this is a safe risk-taking environment.
“I want them to know there isn’t just one right answer. I want them to know that I think what they say is important.”
Matter of fact, on her personal website, she describes herself first as an “educator.” Then comes “graphic designer,” and last is “artist.”
Blanton says she tailors what she teaches around what interests the students.
“They learn to problem solve and they learn to think creatively, and those are two of the things successful adults needs to do.
“Art teaches them to take risks and it helps them figure out what they’re thinking.
“I love this, but it’s hard,” she says about her job. “These kids are fun, and I like cutting up with them.
“Half the time, we’re not talking about art, we’re talking about life in middle school. They know I’m open-minded, and they know I’ll put it to them straight and tell them what I think.
“I’m pulling for them and they know that.”
In school, Blanton is on the yearbook staff and has been involved with the Horry County Technology Fair at the convention enter.
Out of school, her family likes being outside, hiking, biking, being at the beach, and visiting extended family in Green Sea.
“I love being a Mama and I love being a teacher,” she says, adding, “I have a lot of little people depending on me to get it right.”