McRostie named Polk Teacher of Year

Published 10:07 am Saturday, October 15, 2011

Susan McRostie, art teacher at Saluda Elementary School, was recently named Polk County Teacher of the Year. (photo by Samantha Hurst)

Teachers of Year also named at each Polk school
Susan McRostie denounces the idea that art is a “fluff” subject.
Step inside her art room at Saluda Elementary School and you’ll see why.
The Polk County Teacher of the Year’s art lessons all involve language, math, science and history learned through crayons and acrylic paint.
“It makes such sense to reinforce what they are learning throughout the day, especially in these little ones,” McRostie said. “Many students need that sort of tactile learning to help concepts sink in.”
During a recent first-grade session, McRostie worked with students who were learning about the African country of Zimbabwe. The students crafted compass roses to learn about directions and in the meantime practiced spelling t-i-n-t and g-l-i-t-t-e-r. They also discovered that mixing dark blue paint with white paint creates a baby blue tint, that there are three points on a triangle and that violet, blue and green are considered cool colors.
Saluda School Principal Ronette Dill said McRostie is a very strong advocate for the arts.
“The way she integrates the different grade-level subject matter really helps make connections for kids. It’s also made a huge difference in our school climate,” Dill said. “Now, you’ll hear kids in class say, ‘Hey, I know what that is – we made one in art class.’”
Dill said she wished more educators grasped the need for the arts as an integral part of learning the way McRostie does.
“I think if people will understand the importance of the arts and how they can be used to teach children we could do great things in education,” Dill said. “I think she would be a great advocate for that at the state level, if given the chance.”
McRostie said being named Teacher of the Year for the county means a tremendous amount to her.
“It’s an extraordinary honor because it draws some much needed respect and attention to the arts and arts education,” McRostie said.
Timing could not have been more perfect for the honor, McRostie said, as the first class of preK students she taught at Saluda will graduate from fifth grade this spring.
Dill said McRostie’s ability to communicate with students at all levels is another aspect of what makes her worthy of the Teacher of the Year honor.
She maintains a packed day, splitting her schedule between the elementary school and teaching art 1 to 10th-12th grade art students at Polk County High School.
“She has an amazing ability to communicate with them all at their level,” Dill said.
McRostie began working in Polk County in 2006 after a brief “retirement.” Before then she had spent 10 years as an elementary school teacher and another four as a visual arts teacher in Florida.

Teachers of the Year by school
Polk Central Elementary – Gail Spitznogle
Gail Spitznogle received her master’s of education in learning disabilities from Western Carolina University in May 2011. She earned her learning disabilities certification from Converse College in 1997 and a bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of S.C. Upstate in 1990.
“Our job as educators is not to just feed our students facts or steps to solve a problem, but our job should be to teach our students to think and problem solve,” Spitznogle said. “It is key that we help guide our students in realizing their strengths and then use those strengths as the building block to all other learning.”

Polk County High School – Katherine McCraw
Katherine McCraw attended Gardner-Webb University for a bachelor of arts degree with a focus in political science, journalism and art. She began her career teaching English and social studies at East McDowell Junior High and McDowell High School before moving to Polk County High School in 2003.
Since coming to PCHS she has taught civics and economics, world history, U.S. history and introduction to journalism.
“I love getting the kids who no one else can reach; getting that spark of interest that turns into a fire and watching them become more successful and confident,” McCraw said. “To me it is a challenge and I like challenges.”

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Polk County Middle School – Kenneth Alexander
Kenneth Alexander has been a math teacher in Polk County for the past 10 years. He obtained his degree in mathematics from The University of the South in 1989 and continued his education through Gardner-Webb University and Central Piedmont Community College to obtain N.C. teacher certifications. Alexander also taught at Deer Creek School in Mississippi for two years.
“As a teacher, I strive to guide my students through the curriculum in such a way that requires them to think,” Alexander said. “I make the lessons interesting by presenting the information in a  variety of ways to address the different learning styles.”

Sunny View Elementary –
Richard Davis
Richard Davis received his master’s degree in administration and supervision from the University of Phoenix in 2009 and a bachelor’s degree previously in physical education from Western Carolina University.
He has worked at Sunny View Elementary since 2009 and has also worked at Polk County High School, Cherryville High School and Crest Middle School most recently. Davis has been in the education field since 1985.
“After having taught public school for the past 24 years, I can say that my greatest contributions to the profession is the fact that I truly care and have cared about the future of every student I have taught,” Davis said.

Tryon Elementary – Jessica Wilkins
Jessica Wilkins obtained her M.E.D. in special education LD from Converse College, after earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of South Carolina Spartanburg. She began her teaching career in 2003 at Tryon Elementary.
“I believe that kindergarten can make or break a child when it comes to them liking school,” Wilkins said in her biography. “I strive to give them the best experience possible.”