Ten years ago, Leslie Rich was teacher of the year at Ocean Bay Middle School.
Now she’s the teacher of the year at Ten Oaks Middle School, and a little sign in her classroom says, “I teach. What’s your super power?”
There’s also a humanitarian award in her seventh-grade science classroom from the PTO, commending her on “always being willing to lend a hand.”
On the leadership team when TOMS opened, she’s a science club sponsor and is on the yearbook committee.
Rich says she thinks she was named teacher of the year because, “They tell me I’m helpful, and I do go out of my way to help people feel welcome. And, I do try to contribute to the positive atmosphere at Ten Oaks.”
Rich, who is board certified, is in her 18th year as an educator, and has her master’s degree in technology in teaching.
Her husband Jeremy is principal at Socastee High School, and the Carolina Forest family includes three children between 5 and 10-years-old.
A soccer player in school, Rich and her family enjoy anything remotely athletic including bike riding, walking, running, and being at the beach.
“We want to promote a healthy lifestyle for our children and to be examples of that,” she says.
One of the things Rich especially likes about teaching science to seventh graders is the curriculum.
“It’s relevant to the students, and it’s easy to connect to them through the content.”
For example, in the ecology unit, one of the things she taught them is worm behavior.
Before they finished that topic, the kids knew how worms respond to touch, what makes a good worm habitat and what components are necessary for them to survive.
And what seventh grader – even among the females – wasn’t curious about that?
“It’s fun, it’s so hands-on,” Rich says about the science curriculum. “It’s genetics, it’s the human body, it’s things they can relate to in their lives.
“If they can’t relate, they won’t buy into it.”
Rich enjoyed being a student, and says she had interesting teachers who intrigued her with the ways they delivered their lessons.
Modeling herself after some of her favorites, she spends time getting to know her students early on.
“In the beginning of the year, I build relationships and figure out what each of them likes and I build on that,” she says.
“I want to know about their lives, and I want them to know that I care.”
Her students are “still trying to find their niche, finding out who their friends are, what they’re good at and who they can trust,” she says.
“Middle school is tough and seventh grade is right in the middle of that.”
Because students learn at different levels, it’s important to teach at each of those levels, she says, and to help with that, she does a lot of grouping.
Her classroom is set up with small tables with a handful of chairs around each one where the kids can interact one-on-one.
She moves the students around so they can get to know each other so they feel comfortable in those groups.
Rich says that when she was teacher of the year a decade ago, it pushed her “to be a better teacher and to strive to be a better person.
“I want to continue teaching because I love what I do,” she says about future plans.
“I love being in the classroom. This is where my heart is.”