Leanne Hagen moved to Conway from Canada as a middle schooler, and recently was given the honor of being named Teacher of the Year at her alma mater, Conway Middle School.
“This [CMS] was the first place I came to,” Hagen said.
As for the award, she said she was “very surprised and very honored.”
She finished her middle school years at CMS, and went on to graduate from Conway High School, then attended Winthrop University. Her undergraduate degree was in biology, but as she crept closer to graduation, she realized her career path might be different than she first thought.
“I decided senior year that teaching was what I wanted to do, so I stayed to get my Master’s,” she said.
She taught in Loris for ten years, she said, but four years ago as her children entered Conway schools, she thought it best to teach closer to home.
Hagen said she knew she had been nominated, but because of so many other worthy opponents, she didn’t expect to win. But when Principal Regina Treadwell-Pertell started reading a description of the winner, she realized the words were familiar.
“I knew I had been nominated, I had seen what others had written about me, it was all so nice,” Hagen said. “When she [Pertell] started reading, I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I think I read that about me!’”
Hagen got to do what they call the Tiger Walk, parading through the school to celebrate her win, with all the kids and teachers in the hallway cheering her on. At the end of her walk was a special surprise.
Her husband, Kevin, had kept the secret and was waiting in the front office to congratulate her.
“There were some amazing people nominated. We have a phenomenal staff, so many good teachers in this building who truly love kids,” Hagen said.
Hagen truly puts herself into her classroom.
“I think it’s so neat when you can have a job where you come in, and you don’t want to be anywhere else,” Hagen said. “When I’m in my classroom with my kids … there’s nothing else in the world happening. It’s an all-absorbing kind of job and I love that about it.”
She said she loves helping her middle schoolers see their path, and see “what they have in them that they don’t recognize.”
“You live for the ‘A-ha!’ moments,” Hagen said.
She lives in Conway with her husband, and children Jackson, Grady, and Julia.
As a family they enjoy spending time together, especially traveling and watching Clemson football.
“I really do feel that this is a place where so many people work so hard at doing what’s right by kids - to be selected by those people is really an honor,” Hagen said.
Pertell said she knew right away Hagen would be impressive.
“The first year she was hired … I knew right off the bat - it was obvious she was a stand-out teacher,” Pertell said. “She has the kids hooked as soon as they walk in … it lets you know how much she wants her kids to love science. She’s a blessing to our school.”