POMARIA — For almost three decades, Debbie Shealy has been educating young minds with a loving heart.
The Pomaria-Garmany Elementary fifth grade social studies teacher has been honored as Newberry County School District’s Teacher of the Year for the 2012-13 school year.
“I am definitely one to let them know how much I care and how much I’m there for them,” said Shealy, “I want them to love learning. I want to inspire and encourage them.”
One way that Shealy encourages them is at the start of the school year.
She explains the process, “I give them folders with their names and a heart sticker to let them know how much I care about them.”
She also explains that by the end of the school year, her desk - along with any other space around the classroom - will be covered with drawings and pictures from her students.
In fact, her desk is already glowing with the artwork her children give to her. In fact, a couple of pieces have crept upon the white board which always bears their unique handiwork.
This is Shealy’s 29th year teaching with 25 of those years all at Pomaria-Garmany. She actually began her teaching career in Greenwood and also taught music.
She used to teach the gifted and talented class when the school district still offered this specific class. Now it’s changed to an academy block where those who are qualified as achievers and high achievers are taught lessons not normally learned in a fifth grade class.
Aside from social studies, music is another love of hers.
While she doesn’t teach at Pomaria-Garmany, she does teach music during Vacation Bible School at her church, St. Philip’s Lutheran, as well as Sunday school for third through fifth graders. She is also one of the church organists and senior choir director at her church.
After all, she did graduate with a Bachelor’s in music eduction from Winthrop.
She recalls, “I always knew I wanted to teach piano.”
She explains how she got into teaching elementary education students. During one of her music education courses, she was observing classes and she says, “I got hooked that one day. I knew I was supposed to do this.”
Shealy is one who believes that people do receive gifts from God and this is her gift and she wants to utilize it.
When reflecting on some past teachers, she does recall in high school an English teacher who she says was “really good and a kind person who supported and encouraged you.”
That’s the kind of teacher she wants to be and hopes she is to her students.
She loves teaching at Pomaria-Garmany and just enjoys the students and all the staff she works alongside.
“It’s a caring faculty and staff,” reflects Shealy, “That’s reflective of our district; there’s a lot of collaboration and people helping each other.”
When reflecting upon former students, she says she does run across them from time to time.
In fact, last year, a student of hers just graduated from Clemson who was studying to be a pediatrician. She recalls him telling her about being a former student of hers.
In addition to being a teacher to her students, she also has a daughter and a son who are now both married and each have a child of their own.
She even taught her daughter in the gifted and talented class and little bit of music as well, she says.
While her husband passed away last year, a smile still glimmers across her face when thinking about him and what he would think of her teaching today.
Her teaching does have unique aspects as she enjoys utilizing the school’s Smart Board, videos and plenty of games.
There’s also plenty of reading because she says, “children love for you to read to them.”
She also has them keep notebooks in which they write, draw or do whatever it takes for them to understand something.
She also came up with an original brain connections activity in which she combines visual aspects with drawings with lessons to help students better remember what she teaches.
Shealy really believes in using visuals so that they can remember things better.
She wants students to get a sense of excitement of success out of teaching.
“When a see a child and you see them get a good grade, etc, or he or she tells me ‘I love your class’ or ‘I love social studies’, that’s exciting,” says Shealy.
“I love the success that I see,” she adds.
Day by day, Shealy adds to that success list as she teaches students day by day, year after year.