Superintendent Spearman Announces Wilder Elementary’s Tanya Peckham as Teacher of the Year Finalist

Tanya Peckham

Tanya Peckham

Columbia, S.C. – State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman surprised Wilder Elementary teacher Tanya Peckham, today with news that she has been selected as one of five finalists for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year award.

"Tanya's devotion to helping our youngest learners reach their full potential is well evidenced in her teaching and ability to meet every child where they are and support them along their social and academic journey," said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman. "Her approaches have benefited countless students in Sumter and, as a military spouse who has traveled extensively, in communities across the country."


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Superintendent Spearman and Sumter School District superintendent, Dr. Penelope Martin-Knox, joined Peckham, Wilder Elementary principal. David Wright, and school staff on a Zoom video call to make the surprise announcement.

Tanya Peckham is a first grade teacher at Wilder Elementary in Sumter School District. She earned her Bachelor of Science in human development and family studies and her Master of Arts in elementary education from the University of Rhode Island. She has been teaching for nineteen years.

"It is an absolute honor to have an educator of Mrs. Peckham’s caliber serving our children," said Sumter School District superintendent Dr. Penelope Martin-Knox. "She has the innate ability to maintain a clear vision and high expectations for all of her students, while establishing trust and support from her colleagues and parents alike. Additionally, her willingness to accept challenges and listen to input enables her to contribute thoughtful, well-reasoned approaches to supporting her peers, while remaining focused on what matters most, children. The Sumter School District family congratulates Tanya, and wishes her nothing but the best in her journey toward being named the best in the state."

Growing up in a home where the importance of a strong education and of the rewards it could bring were emphasized had a profound effect on Tanya’s decision to become a teacher. She has been teaching for nineteen years and received her first teaching award in 1998 when she was named First Year Teacher of the Year in Georgia. She received the school teacher of the year title while serving in North Carolina (2004) and in Georgia (2008) before being recognized as the 2020 Wilder Elementary and Sumter School District Teacher of the Year. Being part of a military family allowed Tanya the opportunity to live in different places, sample a variety of cultural environments, and enjoy many unique educational experiences. These experiences not only further fostered her love of learning, but also reinforced her belief that effective teachers are those who meet the needs of all the diverse learners that come into their classrooms finding ways to reach each student on different levels. Tanya’s instruction incorporates a variety of teaching styles and emphasizes positive reinforcement. She instills in her young learners the courage to be risk-takers and to accept mistakes as learning opportunities and encourages her fellow teachers to do the same.

As one of five finalists, Tanya will receive $10,000 and go on to the next stage of competition which involves an interview with a team of expert judges. The winner will be announced at the South Carolina Teacher of the Year Gala, which has been postponed and will be rescheduled for later this year.

The winner receives a total of $25,000 and is provided with a brand new BMW to use while serving for one year as a roving ambassador providing mentoring, attending speaking engagements, working with teacher cadets and teaching fellows, leading the State Teacher Forum, and serving as the state spokesperson for over 50,000 educators.

The Teacher of the Year program celebrates excellence and strengthens the teaching force by honoring and recognizing exceptional teachers on the district, state, and national level. The Teacher of the Year Awards not only assist in retention efforts but serve as a powerful recruitment tool to the educator profession.

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