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