State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman surprised Spring Hill High School teacher Sarah Gams today with news that she has been selected as one of five finalists for the prestigious South Carolina Teacher of the Year award.

“Sarah is a veteran educator who gives tirelessly of her time and energy to ensure her students and peers have the support and content knowledge needed to be successful in life and academics,” said State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman.

Superintendent Spearman and Lexington-Richland School District Five superintendent, Dr. Christina Melton, joined staff from Spring Hill High School on a video conference to make the surprise announcement.

Sarah Gams is a 10th through 12th grade English teacher at Spring Hill High School in Lexington-Richland School District Five, where she also serves as the English Department Chair. Gams earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of South Carolina’s Honor College and a Masters of Arts in teaching from the University of South Carolina. Gams earned her Master’s +30 from Coastal Carolina University. She is National Board Certified in Early Adolescence English Language Arts and has been teaching for 16 years.

“Mrs. Gams is a passionate educator who leads by example,” Melton said. “She challenges her students while supporting their development and also serves as a teacher leader both at Spring Hill High School and in School District Five. Her classroom is vibrant, full of conversation and serves as an English laboratory where students are free to take risks, knowing that risk taking leads to development. Mrs. Gams is an ambassador for School District Five and for our field of public education. Congratulations, Mrs. Gams.”

As the daughter of two retired educators, Gams always dreamed of becoming one. While studying abroad in Scotland, Gams discovered a passion for travel and for the global classroom. Believing that multicultural experiences create global citizens she has led nine student educational tours abroad. To both share her love of reading and promote parental involvement, Gams created the Community Book Club at her school. Her initiative to build collaborative content teams as the chair of the English Department helped teachers engage students with relevant curriculum based on their unique needs and interests. Gams’s belief in empowering students fuels her teaching. By treating her students with respect, valuing their individuality and ideas and designing lessons that make meaningful connections between English studies and their everyday lives, she makes her classroom a place where students want to be every day. She believes “Yes” to be the most powerful word in teaching as it opens the door to countless possibilities.

Spring Hill High School principal, Dr. Michael Lofton, said: “Sarah Gams is one of the most innovative, creative, and student-centered teachers that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She is a true gem who represents the important aspects of education, not the test scores or the documentation, but the relationships, integrity, and creativity all in an effort to benefit students. I know Mrs. Gams’ knowledge and instructional strategies can influence those far beyond the walls of our school. I am so proud of her and proud to have her as a member of our Spring Hill family.”

As one of five finalists, Gams will receive $10,000 and go on to the next stage of competition which involves an interview with a team of expert judges. The winner will be announced at the South Carolina Teacher of the Year Gala, which has been postponed from May 5 and will be rescheduled soon.

The winner receives a total of $25,000 and is provided with a brand new BMW to use while serving for one year as a roving ambassador providing mentoring, attending speaking engagements, working with teacher cadets and teaching fellows, leading the State Teacher Forum, and serving as the state spokesperson for over 50,000 educators.

The Teacher of the Year program celebrates excellence and strengthens the teaching force by honoring and recognizing exceptional teachers on the district, state, and national level. The Teacher of the Year Awards not only assist in retention efforts but serve as a powerful recruitment tool to the educator profession.