UNION — Amy Truitt is Foster Park Elementary School’s 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year.
Truitt said her philosophy in regard to teaching is simple.
“Love first and teach second, while still loving,” she said. “Love the kid who is rude and disrespectful; love the genius; love the slow to catch on; love the fastest runner; love the kid with the writing so sloppy it gives you a headache to read; love the one that interrupts constantly; love the child who thinks finger painting is equivalent to swimming; love the one who throws up on your shoe; love the one who makes you smile and the one who makes you want to scream. Love them all.”
Truitt has taught visual art at Foster Park Elementary School for the past six years. She is also drama club assistant and grant manager. From 2005-2007, Truitt taught third grade at Foster Park Elementary. Between 1996-2005, she taught second and fourth grades as well as resource at Jonesville Elementary.
Truitt earned a Bachelor of Arts in Deaf and Elementary Education with a minor in studio art from Converse College in 1996, and in 2002 she earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Converse. In 2005, she became certified to teach art. Since then she has taken various technology-, curriculum- and arts-related courses from Converse College, Winthrop University and the University of South Carolina.
Truitt said she began to think about teaching at a very young age and fondly remembers playing school as a child.
“I have always been a teacher at heart because I was surrounded by those who loved learning — at home, at church, at school, everywhere,” Truitt said. “As a young child at church, my teachers and preachers were always folks who treasured learning about God’s Word. They set the standard high for me when they challenged me to memorize scripture, learn all of the books of the Bible through a song, and let me know they expected results from my having been at church.”
Truitt said she was positively influenced by many of her teachers, but her favorite was Pat McAbee.
“She was the sweetest lady I had ever met, had the most beautiful cursive handwriting I had ever seen, and was a fantastic teacher,” Truitt said. “She loved learning, loved language and genuinely loved me! I knew in my heart of hearts that she had a genuine care and concern for me, my education and my well-being. I can still knock on her door today and she — though much older — is still the same person she always was — sweet, genuine, almost angelic in her amount of kindness. Being in her classroom was a thrill just because of who she was. I strive to be the kind of teacher she was for me and the kind of lady she still is today.”
Foster Park Elementary School Principal Barbara Palmer said Truitt’s teaching philosophy is observable the minute one steps into her classroom.
“Mrs. Truitt believes that students must first feel safe and comfortable in the environment before they feel safe to perform academically,” Palmer said. “Students who often do not perform successfully in the regular classroom excel in Mrs. Truitt’s class. She is able to pull the artistic ability out of the students and to even make those who are not gifted artistically feel that they are artists. She has a gift for bringing out the best in all students.”
Palmer also pointed out that Truitt has been instrumental in writing and receiving “Special Arts Grants” each year for the past several years.
“She devotes extra time and energy voluntarily in order for the students to have experiences they would otherwise not be able to experience,” Palmer said. “Our students have had an artist-in-residence for the past several years as a result of her grant writing abilities. They have been afforded the opportunity to work with professional musicians and artists such as sculptors, African drummers and theatrical performers.”
Literacy and curriculum coach Patricia Farmer said Truitt’s love for students is evident in her methods as well as her investment of time.
“She uses positive reinforcement lavishly, with lots of verbal praise and coaching,” Farmer said. “She stays after school to help with programs and activities. She decorates our halls with beautiful art work using her own time. She leads a math academy time group of struggling students and is a very important part of our tutoring plan.”
Truitt said the rewards from teaching are too many to count, but one major reward is seeing growth and development in a child. She said she loves seeing personalities develop in a positive way, seeing students become more independent and seeing their confidence increase.
“I guess my greatest contributions and accomplishments in education aren’t the awards I have received or the number of art ribbons my students have won,” she said. “They are by far the number of students I have influenced in a positive way — the kids who have never had many adults care about them but knew I was genuinely concerned for them; the ones who realized they could learn something or do something they thought was impossible; the students who realized they are worth something even if someone else runs faster or sings higher; the ones who felt loved and accepted and know that if they come up to me today, they still will be. My greatest contribution to education is the number of smiles I have given, the amount of encouragement I have offered, and yes, along with that, the number of lifelong learners I have helped to form and inspire to be the best they could be.”
Aside from school, Truitt is involved in the community as a faithful member of Beulah Baptist Church, of which her husband, Mark, is pastor.
“I feel that as a Christian woman who has been blessed in many ways over the years, I have the duty to share these blessings with others,” she said.
Through the church, Truitt does missions work, sings in the choir, teaches Sunday School classes, leads the youth/children’s choir, leads Vacation Bible School each summer, works in the nursery and teaches Children’s Church. While growing up, Truitt was a member of West Springs Baptist Church.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.