UNION — Kathryn Sommer-Gough is Sims Middle School’s 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year.
“Mrs. Sommer-Gough was chosen by her peers because she shows professionalism in all areas of work. Each day she looks for interesting and creative ways to teach her students, and she always demonstrates a serious interest in her students’ education,” the announcement issued by Sims Middle School stated. “She is definitely a team player in achieving school-wide goals, and she exemplifies ‘Tiger Pride’ everyday.”
Sims Principal Mickey Connolly also sang Sommer-Gough’s praises.
“Not only is Mrs. Sommer-Gough a fantastic teacher, but she is a great role model for the students,” Connolly said. “Sims Middle School is very fortunate to have her as a member of the faculty.”
After graduating from Union High School in 1991, Sommer-Gough earned an associate’s degree from USC Union in 1993, and then went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a minor in English from then-USC Spartanburg in 1994.
Sommer-Gough is a lifelong resident of Union County. She is the daughter of Silvio and Joann Wilburn Sommer and is married to Phil Gough.
Sommer-Gough said she wanted to become a teacher for as long as she can remember, and she mentioned she participated in the Teacher Cadet program as a senior at Union High School.
Her sisters — Kristi Sommer and Lory Sommer-Grissom — are also teachers in Union County Schools.
“My sisters and I went into education because education was extremely important in our household,” Sommer-Gough said. “For instance, our father would not watch TV after work, he would sit and read the encyclopedia! Our mother also taught English at Union High School for a time.”
While working at Union County Carnegie Library, Sommer-Gough realized she wanted to teach special education.
“I would help the children who came into the library with their reading and writing,” she said. “There was one little boy in particular who struggled with his writing.”
Soon after, Sommer-Gough enrolled in Converse College and received a Master of Education degree in Teaching Students with Learning Disabilities in 1998. She also holds certifications in elementary education and middle-level English/language arts, and she is currently in the process of adding a certification in middle-level social studies.
Sommer-Gough began her career with Union County Schools in 1999 at Jonesville Elementary School, where she taught fundamentals classes for students requiring extra help with their work. The next year, she traveled between three schools — Foster Park Elementary, Buffalo Elementary and Sims Junior High. When all three became full-time positions the next year, she chose Sims and has been a Sims Tiger ever since.
Until the current school year, Sommer-Gough was a Learning Specialist. During the first nine weeks, she took the position of teaching English I Honors when it became available, and she said she has thoroughly enjoyed teaching the subject thus far.
Sommer-Gough credits one special teacher with truly inspiring her.
“I have always struggled with math,” she said. “It was never my favorite subject — until the eighth grade.”
Sommer-Gough said Mrs. Dale Goff made her eighth grade math class enjoyable because she knew how to relate to students, making them feel loved and able.
“Mrs. Goff made it so interesting, and even fun!” Sommer-Gough said. “She was able to explain math in a way that was so clear to me. I had never done so well in the subject. We wanted to learn in her class.”
Aside from being a wonderful teacher, Sommer-Gough said she thought of Goff as a second mother and a friend.
“I knew I could go to her with school problems, or anything else, and she would be there for me and would be trustworthy,” Sommer-Gough said. “That meant a lot to me. That’s why I wanted to be like her. She was there for me during a difficult ‘growing pains’ year. I wanted to pay that forward. I always wanted to be that person in a child’s life.”
Sommer-Gough has been a member of the PTO, School Improvement Council, SCIRA and UCEA; she volunteers with literacy nights at the school; and helps put together the Black History Programs at Sims. She is also the spelling bee coordinator for her school and the co-advisor of the Academic Challenge team.
As for activities aside from school, Sommer-Gough is a member of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Union. There she is active on the Altar Guild and Mission Committee, and she is a Lay Reader. For six years, she sat on the board of trustees of York Place, Episcopal Home for Children. Within the community, Sommer-Gough is a member of the Union County Arts Council, the Union County Historical Society, the Friends of the Library and the Junior Charity League.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.