Once a year, Spanish teacher Jessica Richardson ’12 rolls out the red carpet for her students, literally.
After viewing the latest couture from Spain on fashion channel Solo Moda, Richardson and her students rearrange their desks at Travelers Rest High School for a little less trendy runway show.
“The tackier, the better,” said Richardson, who asks her students to describe their plaid- and polka-dotted ensembles as part of their assignments.
Her creativity and commitment to students were some of the reasons Richardson was recently named an Emerging Teacher of the Year by The School District of Greenville County.
Richardson was recognized by the district for meeting “the challenges of education in today’s classroom with determination and skill. Students connect to Ms. Richardson with respect, personal commitment, and caring. She uses technology effectively to help fill the gaps between the culture of her students and those of other countries.”
Richardson, a native of Memphis, Tenn., graduated magna cum laude from Furman University and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In addition to her role as a Spanish teacher, Richardson assists with the school’s robotics team, Beta Club, and Faculty Council, even volunteering to sell tickets at athletic events.
“We are extremely proud. This is a distinct honor that reflects Jessica’s dedication to providing the finest possible education to all students,” said Furman University President Elizabeth Davis. “We know that she has made—and will continue to make—a positive difference in the lives of countless individuals.”
In addition to her love of office supplies since childhood, Richardson said her EDU 111 class with Scott Henderson at Furman confirmed her desire to be a teacher.
“I decided I should teach what I’m the most nerdy about,” said Richardson, who studied abroad in Madrid, Spain with Spanish Professor Stephanie Knouse while at Furman and spent this summer in Costa Rica.
“Jessica’s command and knowledge of the Spanish language and culture is her biggest asset, and she effectively harnesses her skills in order to instruct and motivate her students,” said Knouse. “Jessica truly shines professionally, and from the outset of her career, she has established herself as a serious educator of Spanish.”
Her travels and knowledge of Spanish culture are regularly incorporated into her lessons. Using her Promethean board and 3-D maps on Google Earth, Richardson’s students give her directions in Spanish as she navigates the streets of Madrid.
“I tell them those are the buses I rode when I studied abroad,” she said. “It does pique their interest.”
To practice using their Spanish vocabularies, Richardson’s students interview her and each other, asking questions about everything from favorite movies to the best kind of potato.
Richardson doesn’t mind answering personal questions. A favorite of her students is, “how old are you?”
“112,” she writes on the board.
“I was 111 years old last year,” she said with a laugh. “They keep my life interesting.”
Richardson is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Spanish education from Auburn University.
The Emerging Teachers of the Year Program, sponsored by Greenville Federal Credit Union, recognizes two second or third year teachers, one elementary and one secondary, for outstanding performance. Each winner receives $500, a crystal award, and $500 for their school.