Posted: Thursday, August 3, 2023

Lindsay Zika, Multilingual Learner Program Teacher at Greenville Senior High Academy named 2023-24 Greenville County Schools Teacher of the Year

This morning, Greenville Senior High Academy Multilingual Learner Program teacher Lindsay Zika received the district’s highest teaching honor as Superintendent Dr. Burke Royster named her the 2023-24 GCS Teacher of the Year. 

Three runners-up were announced: Crystal Chappell, fourth-grade teacher at Monaview Elementary School, was named First Runner-up; Erin Wilson, Music teacher at Bell’s Crossing Elementary School, was named Second Runner-up; and Isaac West, fifth-grade teacher at Hollis Academy was named Third Runner-up.

Finalists for 2023-24 Teacher of the Year were Caroline Creel, sixth-grade Science teacher at Northwest Middle; Allison Franke, Creative Writing, Teen Leadership and Journalism teacher at League Academy; Courtney Pfeiffer, School Counselor at East North Street Academy; Catherine Smith, Architecture teacher at the Fine Arts Center; Wendy Trusty, Challenge teacher at Taylors Elementary; and Leila Tyler, Special Education teacher at Wade Hampton High. 

This year, two First-Class Teacher Award winners were named. This award is sponsored by Public Education Partners and recognizes exemplary teachers at both the elementary and secondary level who have completed their very first year of teaching and have Induction Contract Status in Greenville County Schools. The Elementary First Class Teacher Award was presented to Emily Martin, fourth-grade teacher at Thomas E. Kerns Elementary. The Secondary First Class Teacher Award was presented to Leilani Fletcher, US History teacher at Mauldin High School.

In addition, two Emerging Teachers of the Year were named. The Emerging Teacher of the Year program is sponsored by Greenville Federal Credit Union and recognizes teachers who have completed their second or third year of teaching.  Awards are presented to one elementary teacher and one secondary teacher. MacKenzie Stewart, third-grade teacher at Skyland Elementary, was named Elementary Level Emerging Teacher of the Year, and Elizabeth Leeder, STEAM lab teacher at Woodmont Middle School, was named Secondary Level Emerging Teacher of the Year.

Teacher of the Year Finalists: L-R Superintendent Dr. Burke Royster; Third Runner-up Isaac West, fifth-grade teacher at Hollis Academy; Second Runner-up Erin Wilson, Music teacher at Bell’s Crossing Elementary School; First Runner-up Crystal Chappell, fourth-grade teacher at Monaview Elementary School.

2023-24 Teacher of the Year Lindsay Zika

2023-24 Teacher of the Year, Lindsay Zika

Lindsay Zika, the 2023-24 Greenville County Schools Teacher of the Year, makes connections with her students through examples from her own childhood and experiences as a global educator.

Lindsay was fortunate to learn from many amazing teachers growing up, but her mother’s example as a speech-language pathologist shined brightest. She watched her mother make connections with students and their families, and, today, Lindsay carries on this tradition in order to make sure all of her students know she believes in them and their ability to succeed. Not only has this been a top priority as a multilingual learner program teacher at Greenville Senior High Academy, but also as an educator in California, Mexico, Belize and the Dominican Republic. 

For Lindsay, the educational process begins with learning each student’s story. It sounds simple, but she wants her students to know from the very beginning: I see you, and you belong here. She believes that ALL students can succeed. Lindsay shares that her primary job is to help students connect with their strengths, as well as to support their specific needs. Lindsay believes in teaching future leaders and that students should take ownership of their learning. Her students know she has high expectations for them, which she fully believes they are capable of reaching.

Her main goal as a multilingual learner program teacher is to prepare students to be productive members of society. The first step Lindsay takes is by helping her multilingual learners acquire the social and academic English skills they need to graduate from high school, succeed in college or vocational training, and successfully join the workforce. Students need to understand what opportunities are available and how to access these opportunities. Lindsay encourages her students to venture out of their comfort zones and take advantage of all the opportunities available to them. This empowers them to take ownership of their learning, self-advocate and choose classes aligned with their goals; she can then provide support and encouragement to help them reach their goals.

Lindsay shares, “I am amazed by what students can achieve when they feel valued and connected. The first thing I want students to learn in my classroom is their teacher respects and believes in them. Once they know this, they are on their way to becoming confident, successful learners.”

Teacher of the Year Process

The process of selecting ten finalists began last fall when schools and centers selected their individual Teachers of the Year. School-level Teachers of the Year completed a comprehensive application that was reviewed and scored by an initial Screening Committee. The judges then ranked the top one-third of applicants and selected the finalists.

Top 10 Finalists for Teacher of the Year

How Are the Finalists Chosen?

Each Top Ten candidate for Greenville County Teacher of the Year is judged on the completed application, a one-on-one interview, and a classroom observation.

During the interview, candidates were evaluated on their use of effective communication skills, organization of responses to questions, and substance and relevance of response.  Top Ten Finalists had an unannounced observation by the judging committee. Judges scored each finalist on his or her knowledge of content, teacher/student interaction, communication skills, instructional delivery, and assessment and feedback.

The members of the Selection Committee are Dr. Sandra Griffin, retired GCS administrator; Catherine James, Greenville Federal Credit Union; Donna Johnston, The Community Journal; Kelly Nalley, former GCS Teacher of the Year and former SC Teacher of the Year; Dr. Scott Turner, former GCS Deputy Superintendent and current professor at Anderson University.

Special Thanks to Our Sponsors

Special awards and prizes are provided for the top Greenville County teacher and other honorees. Sponsors include Bank of Travelers Rest, BMW Manufacturing Company, Chick-fil-A of Greer, Cowart Awards, District 1 PTA, Downtown Rotary Club of Greenville, Eplee + Associates, Expressions Unlimited, Greenville Drive, Greenville Federal Credit Union, Greenville Journal, Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa, Herff Jones of South Carolina, Jostens, LS Homes, Michelin North America Inc., Papa John’s Pizza, Peace Center, SC Charities, Spinx, Staples and Table 301.

Elementary First Class Teacher Award Winner Fourth Grade Teacher Emily Martin, Thomas E. Kerns Elementary
Secondary First Class Teacher Award Winner US History Teacher Leilani Fletcher, Mauldin High School
Elementary Emerging Teacher of the Year, Third Grade Teacher MacKenzie Stewart, Skyland Elementary
Secondary Emerging Teacher of the Year, STEAM Lab Teacher Elizabeth Leeder, Woodmont Middle

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