Tonya Dawsey has come full circle, having attended Midland Elementary as a child and now being honored as her school’s 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year.
“Surely someone deserves this more than me,” Dawsey said, recalling her first thought when she was announced as the winner.
Dawsey is the school counselor for MES, and also does prevention and intervention counseling and consultation. In addition, she coordinates the Guidance and Counseling Program.
“My curriculum is based on standards in three areas: Learning to Live, Learning to Learn and Learning to Work,” Dawsey said.
This is her 24th year as an educator, she said, having started her career in Marion School District One, and moved on to Anderson School District Three.
She began teaching first grade and second grade, but felt there were “needs beyond those that I could reach in the classroom” so she pursued a master’s degree in elementary school counseling.
“I developed as a teacher and counselor under some wise leadership in our neighboring county…while those were some formative years for me as an educator, my heart always wanted to come back home,” Dawsey said.
After years of waiting for the right pieces to fall into place, she said, she got the offer to teach at her alma mater.
“I find it such an honor to carry on the traditions of my childhood. None more important than a genuine value of each child for who they are and who they hope to become,” she said.
Dawsey is currently part of the very first cohort in Coastal Carolina University’s new Ph.D. in education program.
She said that the kind of teaching she gets to do is a bit different than a homeroom teacher “both in nature and content.”
“I get the privilege of teaching about life and choices…both bits of knowledge and pieces of wisdom,” Dawsey said. “It’s important to me that I weave into every lesson a statement that my students have heard me say many times: ‘You are created perfectly. You are created perfectly for your purpose. The struggles that you go through in life make you strong enough to fulfill that purpose.’”
She said it’s important to her to have students know that no one has a perfect life. Everyone has ups and downs, twists and turns.
“The power comes in what you think. What you think changes how you feel, and that changes what you do. When you change what you do, you change your life,” she said.
She said Midland has been “rich soil” for her to have grown in, as a child and as a professional.
“[The administration and staff] trust me with tough issues that students face both in the classroom and at home. They care about all children and so they also value their personal, social and emotional needs. Most of all, they do their work with such integrity and high standards that they inspire me to rise to that standard,” Dawsey said.
She and her husband Heath, who she said is her “biggest fan and greatest supporter”, have three children, Joey, Haydn and Camden.
Outside of MES, she enjoys camping, kayaking and activities she can do with her family.
Dawsey credits the “incredible” administration team and teachers at MES.
“I know that I am only able to do the work I do at Midland because of [them],” she said. “As a school counselor, to be given this honor by the teachers in my building is really the greatest compliment ever.”