WEST COLUMBIA, SC -- Teacher Kim Donovan carries many titles at Wood Elementary -- music teacher, volunteer, running coach, entrepreneur, leader.
Now, she can add a new title: District Teacher of the Year.
Donovan, who has been teaching in Lexington Two since starting her career as an educator six years ago, was surprised in her classroom Tuesday with the news from district administrators. The announcement was met with a hearty round of cheers from her music students.
Principals and administrators at Wood said Donovan is known as a relationship-builder and a positive, inspiring role model to students and fellow teachers alike.
She not only spreads that energy in the classroom with her second- through fifth-grade music students but to any number of student and parent groups. Among organizations she’s involved with, Donovan is elementary music lead teacher, School Improvement Council member, guitar program coordinator, coach of the largest Girls on the Run team in South Carolina, and PTO secretary. She also initiated the founding of the school’s Watch DOGS organization, which has been locally and nationally recognized for its mission of providing positive male role models for students. She also has helped launch Watch DOGS programs at other area schools.
“I never have to ask her to volunteer for anything -- she’s always there when we have a need,” said Principal Leonard Frierson. “She is very involved and really cares about this school and our community.”
Donovan, who received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of South Carolina, said she works hard to structure her music lessons with required state academic standards and core subjects in mind -- for example, teaching spirituals during a social studies unit on the Civil War and incorporating STEM-based lessons in the day’s work.
Mostly, though, she wants her students to learn that regardless of where life takes them, they can always play music.
“I have watched quiet students sing by themselves for the entire class. I have heard complex rhythmic phrases from students who usually do not participate,” Donovan said. “I have heard gorgeous melodies from baseball boys and I have watched ESOL students perform their own guitar music onstage.
“I hope that through my teaching, my students are learning to embrace differences, to respect a variety of opinions and to truly listen to each other,” Donovan said.
And, she hopes they learn to take risks in the pursuit of learning.
“Learning is taking chances, trying new things, failing, creating, designing and redesigning,” Donovan said. “Learning is not perfect. Learning is often messy. But learning is empowering.”
Donovan will go on to represent Lexington Two in the S.C. Teacher of the Year competition. The statewide winner will be named in May.