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First-year teachers honored with teaching excellence award

childers award
Caroline Terry (left) and Ellie White (right) flank Education Department Chair Nelly Hecker.

Fourth-grade teachers Caroline Terry ’18 (M.A. ’20) and Ellie White ’19 (M.A. ’20) have been named recipients of the 2020 Childers Education Foundation Teaching Excellence Award from Furman University.

Terry, a teacher at Monarch Elementary School in Greenville, and White, a teacher at Fairforest Elementary in Spartanburg District 6, are enrolled in Furman’s graduate program and will complete a Master of Arts with a concentration in early childhood education in August 2020. Each received a $1,500 award during a conferral ceremony and special reception Jan. 15.

A committee of Furman faculty, along with school administrators and mentor teachers who worked closely with award nominees, used three main criteria in selecting the Childers Award winners: love of content, love of teaching and love of student.

“Caroline and Ellie are exceptional and inspiring teachers,” said Nelly Hecker, education professor and department chair. “They not only care for their students’ growth and well-being, but also engage them in thoughtful, well-developed lessons. We are proud to honor their accomplishments as both teachers and Furman graduates.”

Terry said she always makes it a plan to look for the positive, helping her students to look for the same thing in themselves and others. She has celebration boards in her classroom that allow her to not only showcase her students’ outstanding work, but also good things happening at school and home.

“Caroline always works to meet her students’ unique needs. Each day, she offers opportunities for students to collaborate and share their thinking and to highlight student successes,” said Dawn Mitchell, one of Terry’s teaching mentors. “Her teaching is successful because of her love for her students and how it shows in each of her instructional decisions.”

White was recognized for the thoughtful, innovative lessons she has created throughout the year. She orchestrated a “book tasting” event for students complete with a menu, checkered tablecloths, background music and lots of book options. Her class is now working to create digital book trailers to recommend and share their favorite books with students schoolwide.

“It is important to me that each child feels as though our classroom is a place where they are encouraged to learn and grow from mistakes,” White said. “It brings me great joy to encourage, inspire, and empower students as learners.”

The award for first-year teachers was established in 2009 by Marybeth Bunting Childers ’80, an education major at Furman who founded two schools and was named North Carolina Teacher of the Year, and her husband, Alfred Childers ‘80, a former member of Furman’s Board of Trustees.

For more information about the award, contact Nelly Hecker in the Department of Education, at 864-294-3385, and

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