She loves to read and she loves teaching her students to read.
It is that passion for teaching that resulted in Heather Chambers being named Loris Elementary School Teacher of the Year for 2019-20.
Chambers, who has taught at Loris Elementary School for the past eight years, now teaches 25 second-grade students.
She was a teacher’s assistant at a school in New Jersey before moving to Conway.
Chambers said while living in New Jersey, she always wanted to move south. That goal became a reality when her mother, Donna Smith, bought a house in Horry County.
She was hired at LES as an interventionist and was the was transferred to teach first grade which she did for four years before being moved to second grade.
Chambers said there are aspects of both grade levels that she really enjoys.
“First grade I really loved because that is the year they really learn to read so there is a big jump where they really take off reading,” she said. “Second grade is really neat because they are so much more independent, and they write more. They are comprehending more. It is just a fun grade.”
In the past eight years, Chambers has watched as more and more reading materials transitioned to online eBooks. However, she said her students still enjoy turning the pages of real books they can hold in their hands.
“I think they enjoy both because in the library they get to get two books each week and we read out of regular books every morning. They still do love actual books. They love having a book-mark and turning the pages,” she said.
Chambers, who is not married and has no children of her own, said she thinks of each of her students as one of her children. She said building relationships with them is one of the most enjoyable things about being a teacher.
“I try to keep up with them in non-academic ways. They tell me about their brothers and sisters or they tell me about their basketball games,” she said.
When she was asked if she had a teacher that was an inspiration, Chambers quickly said it was her third grade teacher at the school she attended in New Jersey.
“What stands out to me is my third grade teacher, Mrs. White, and I still keep in touch with her to this day. When I first started teaching, she mailed me some books for my classroom,” Chambers said. “In her class I did not feel like just another kid in the classroom. She really got to know me.”
Chambers said she considers teaching to be a gift.
“It’s an opportunity every day to make a difference in the lives of these children,” she said.
Chambers has never been a teacher of the year before this year. She said she was very surprised when the announcement was made.
“They made an announcement over the loudspeaker that I was the teacher of the year and they came in my classroom with balloons,” Chambers said.
“The students told me since I was the teacher of the year then they were the students of the year. That is why I try to learn a lot about my students outside the classroom.”
In her spare time, Chambers loves horseback riding and going to the beach.