Beaufort High teacher honored as 2017-18 District Teacher of the Year

Beaufort High School's Dr. Nancy Ungvarsky was named Beaufort County School District Teacher of the Year for 2017-18. Photo courtesy Beaufort County School District
Beaufort High School’s Dr. Nancy Ungvarsky was named Beaufort County School District Teacher of the Year for 2017-18. Photo courtesy Beaufort County School District

 A biology teacher with more than a decade of classroom experience was named today as the 2017-2018 District Teacher of the Year. The selection of Nancy Ungvarsky, who teaches biology at Beaufort High School, was announced during a breakfast celebration to honor teachers of the year from all of the district’s schools.

“As teachers we put our hearts and souls into what we do every day,” Ungvarsky said, “and it’s really validating to know that it’s worth it, that it’s helping people and making a difference.”

Beaufort High Principal Bonnie Almond said that Ungvarsky was a superlative choice. “She’s the most exceptional teacher I’ve ever met,” Almond said.  “She’s an incredible advocate for her students, and she infuses them with energy and excitement in every class.”

Superintendent Jeff Moss said Ungvarsky has “the experience and passion necessary to represent every teacher in our district.”

“One conversation with her can reassure any parent or community member about the excellence of the classroom professionals we have in Beaufort County,” Moss said.

After the announcement, Martha Hartley, chief financial officer of Hilton Head Buick-GMC-Cadillac, offered Ungvarsky her choice of a $5,000 cash prize or $5,000 that she could apply toward a vehicle offered for sale at the dealer’s invoice price.

Photo courtesy Beaufort County School District

“It’s an honor for our company to recognize top-quality teachers and to honor Dr. Ungvarsky,” said Tom Fitzgerald, the dealership’s owner.  “Teachers play vitally important roles in students’ lives, and Hilton Head Buick-GMC-Cadillac is excited to recognize those teachers by supporting the Beaufort County School District’s Teacher of the Year program.”

The Foundation for Educational Excellence announced an additional $1,000 grant award for Ungvarsky to support innovative instructional opportunities for her students.  The foundation created the grant in memory of Wayne Carbiener, a former Board of Education member whose life and tenure on the Board reflected his support and admiration for teachers.

A new supporter of the Teacher of the Year program is Carroll School Services. Owner Mike Carroll said the company plans to donate a specially made District Teacher of the Year ring to each future year’s recipient.

The four other finalists for 2017-2016 District Teacher of the Year were Duncan Aspinwall-Winter of Hilton Head Island High School, Meredith Rhoden of Beaufort Elementary School, Jennifer Friend-Kerr of Hilton Head School for the Creative Arts, and Angela Bellantone of Bluffton Middle School.

Ungvarsky said that her teaching style comes from understanding that students are required to use and interact with new information in many ways to make meaning out of facts.

“On any given day in my classroom you will see students drawing diagrams to model what is being taught, working in small groups to explain their models to each other while using the vocabulary, taking the next step to refine the models to incorporate the next level of detail, and reading about real world applications of the concepts.” she wrote in her Teacher of the Year application.

Ungvarsky said that for her, the most thrilling part of teaching comes when she watches her students explain what they’ve learned to others and share their newfound knowledge.

Ungvarsky holds a Masters of Education in Secondary Science degree from the University of South Carolina as well as a Doctorate in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining Beaufort County School District in 2009, she taught at Georgia Tech.

Becoming District Teacher of the Year is a three-step process that begins when school-level teachers of the year are selected in April.  Those wishing to compete for District Teacher of the Year submit detailed applications by the end of July.

In the second step, a selection committee consisting of parents, former educators and community leaders from across Beaufort County reviews the applications and rates them using a numerical scoring system.  The five highest-scoring applicants are named as finalists.

In the third step, the finalists are interviewed by a separate review committee again composed of judges from across the county.  Those panelists begin by reviewing videos of the teachers doing classroom lessons.  The judges then score candidates based on how well they respond to questions about the teaching methods shown in the videos, as well as how they respond to questions about current education issues.  After those interviews, the panel selects the District Teacher of the Year in September, and that person represents Beaufort County in the South Carolina State Teacher of the Year program. Finalists for the state program will be announced in February.

2017-18 Teachers of the Year, listed by school:

Battery Creek High                 Sarah Hayes

Beaufort Elementary              Meredith Rhoden**

Beaufort High                         Dr. Nancy Ungvarsky**

Beaufort Middle                     Danya Dehlinger

Bluffton Elementary/ECC       Alison Hall

Bluffton High                          Todd Stewart

Bluffton Middle                      Angela Bellantone**

Broad River Elementary          Phelecia Simmons

Coosa Elementary                   Lauren Plair

H.E. McCracken Middle         Everett Eason

Hilton Head Island ECC           Ashley Berryhill

Hilton Head High                    Duncan Aspinwall-Winter**

HHI International B.E.            Katherine “Kit” Seelbach

Hilton Head Island Middle     Cathy Shaw

HHI School for Creative Arts       Jennifer Friend-Kerr**

Islands Academy                     Patricia Hillis

Joseph S. Shanklin Elem.       Daniel McKeown

Lady’s Island Elementary        Cheryl Horton

Lady’s Island Middle               Andrew Diamond

May River HS                          Samantha Durrett

Michael C. Riley Elem.            Donna Hudson

Mossy Oaks Elementary         Crystal Maroney

Okatie Elementary                 Leigh Underhill

Port Royal Elementary            Melinda Joiner

Pritchardville Elementary      Jennifer McKitrick

Red Cedar Elementary           Alicia VanZanten

River Ridge Academy              Amie Lankowski

Robert Smalls Int’l. Academy       Leanna O’Quinn

St. Helena Elementary/ELC    Merriam Browne

Whale Branch ECHS                 Elizabeth Thomas

Whale Branch Elementary     Nicole Townsend

Whale Branch Middle             Denise Huntsman

Academy for Career Excellence     Jerry Ferguson

**District Teacher of the Year Finalists