UNION COUNTY — For only the second time in the award’s 27-year history, a male educator has been named Union County School District Teacher of the Year.
Union County High School’s Matthew Carroll is the 2013-3014 Teacher of the Year for Union County.
Carroll graduated from Union High School in 2005 and attended the University of South Carolina Upstate, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary English. He currently teaches English II Honors and English III College Prep at UCHS.
Carroll said his mother — Betty Ann Carroll, who currently teaches at Buffalo Elementary and also won the district-wide award in 1999-2000 — was inspirational to him as he watched her work hard and reap the rewards.
“From the time I was old enough to go to her classroom with her, I was at a school somewhere,” Matthew said. “That was the catalyst. I saw the fulfillment she received from helping students, the reward she received from helping them better themselves.”
Betty Ann said her son had felt that God was calling him to become a teacher from the time he was in seventh grade, and from that point, she encouraged him to think about his own experiences and use them in the future.
“He had a lot of great teachers, and when he would talk about the things they did, I said, ‘Well, you remember that and remember how it makes you feel,’” she said. “Then, the same with those teachers who were having a bad day and maybe didn’t make him feel so great. I said, ‘Remember that and remember how it makes you feel.’ All that is not so far behind him that he doesn’t remember it.”
Although Carroll’s mother inspired him to go into the education field, he was in high school when he figured out which subject he would like to teach. In high school, Carroll was a student of longtime English teacher Jack Kelly. Carroll said he has always appreciated they way Kelly held students to such a high standard.
“He got me into literature,” Carroll said, adding that he he fondly remembers writing an end-of-the-year research paper about Ernest Hemingway for Kelly’s class.
“That’s when I started picking apart literature — not just reading, but looking for different nuances each writer might have.”
After college, Carroll knew he wanted to come back and teach in the same place he received his own educational foundation.
“Union is where I was prepared for college, and I wanted to come back and give others the opportunity to receive the same quality education I received here,” he said.
Union County Schools Director of Personnel and Student Services Jeff Stribble announced that Carroll was the district’s Teacher of the Year during Monday evening’s meeting of the Union County Board of School Trustees. Stribble mentioned that one of Carroll’s students had said, “He makes you forget your are in school when you are in his classroom. He makes learning exciting and is the coolest teacher that I have.”
Stribble also pointed out that Carroll ends each class period by telling his students that he loves them.
Carroll said he strives to provide a structured, yet comfortable learning environment where students can learn and achieve goals with the help of teachers, faculty and parents. Carroll also discussed the most memorable moment of his four-year teaching career, which involved a student in one of his English II classes. He said the student worked hard and put in the effort, but for some reason had trouble with her exit exams. After two consecutive tries at the exam and lots of extra help after school, the student finally passed.
“We worked diligently together throughout the year and especially before the HSAP exam,” Carroll said. “I was just as excited to see her passing scores as she was. It was one of those moments where I knew that all the late hours, meetings and all the stuff we do besides teaching class was worth it — to see a child succeed and be proud of what she accomplished. I can’t think of anything else I would want to do for a living.”
Carroll’s mother, Betty Ann, said she is proud of the fact that her son not only cares about teaching academics, but also cares about the whole child.
“We can tell he’s doing what God taught him to do,” she said, explaining her son’s compassion for his students.
She also quoted the Rev. Melvin Shelton of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church — where the entire Carroll family attends — saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
“It applies to students, too,” Betty Ann said. “They have to know the teacher cares and wants to help them. I feel that’s true with Matthew, and we are so proud of him for that.”
She said a young man who spoke with Carroll after class during his first year of teaching somehow approached the subject of church, and Matthew invited him to Mt. Lebanon Baptist. She said the student attended, and he continues to do so, often with his entire family.
Matthew pointed out that he firmly believes God led him to his profession.
“I’m a person who believes in prayer and God’s ability to answer and show God’s people what they need to do when they ask for guidance,” Carroll said. “God placed people in my life to help me make that decision because I asked. I asked for guidance and wisdom, and it seemed like everything fell into place.”
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.