UNION — The Union County School District says lightning has struck twice in the way of local teacher recognition.
Longtime UCHS drama teacher Ralph Lawson was chosen as the Carolina Panthers and FSI Teacher of the Week.
For the third year in a row, the Carolina Panthers and FSI (Forms & Supply Inc.) Office are conducting their Teacher of the Week program. The program allows customers and employees of FSIoffice to nominate teachers who excel in the classroom and create a passion for learning among their students.
All nominees receive gift boxes with a variety of supplies to use in their classroom, and each weekly winner receives an additional supply of classroom items and two tickets to the Dec. 9 Panthers home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Each week of the Panthers regular season through the Dec. 9 game, a winner will be chosen. From the 13 weekly winners, a Teacher of the Year will be chosen and recognized at the game and given a desk chair, laptop computer and projector for his or her classroom.
What makes Lawson’s selection even more special for the district is that he is the second Union County teacher — out of a five-state region — to be chosen for this honor in 2012. Buffalo Elementary fourth-grade teacher Donna Long was selected in September, and both Lawson and Long will be invited to the field at halftime during the Dec. 9 Panthers game to be recognized.
Emily Leazer of FSI said this is somewhat unusual considering the dozens of counties from which nominations are taken.
“When choosing our winners each week, the priority is picking the individual with the best nomination regardless of what school or district they are from,” Leazer said. “This year, we just happened to have some really stellar nominations coming out of the Union County School District and I am so pleased for those individuals as they are very deserving of the award.
Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall agreed with Leazer, comparing the two awards to lightning striking twice.
“It certainly speaks to the caliber of teachers in our district and the impact they have on young people and their families,” Woodall said. “I am honored to work with them!”
Woodall added that she has known Lawson personally and professionally for many years, and she has a lot of respect for his talent and ability to cultivate talent in his students. Woodall said Lawson and his wife, Janet — also a teacher in the district — have added to Union’s cultural offerings through school and community productions.
Lawson said the award was a surprise for him, as he was with students at the South Carolina Theatre Association Festival in Newberry when his name was first announced at the Panthers-Redskins game. Lawson said Principal Floyd Lyles approached him during after-school rehearsals the next day.
“That’s when everybody came into the cafeteria,” Lawson said, mentioning that Woodall, as well as district administrators Lynn Lawson and Jeff Stribble came to congratulate him.
Lawson was informed that he had been nominated by Pamela Morris — the mother of Lawson’s former student Katie Morris — and both were also there to congratulate him. A letter was included with the office supplies Lawson received, which included an excerpt from the letter written by Morris.
“I was touched, to say the least,” Lawson said. “When your students and their parents do things like this, it makes you appreciate what you do and the responsibility you have. It may sound cliche, but teachers do affect lives, and it’s quite a responsibility to be a teacher, especially these days.”
Morris said she nominated Lawson because her daughter — who had four classes of Lawson’s while in high school — absolutely loved him from the first day of class.
“Just about every day, she came home from school excited about something that she had learned in Mr. Lawson’s class,” Morris said. “I don’t think people realize how much the kids learn from Mr. Lawson besides acting skills or speech. Mr. Lawson teaches the kids set design and construction, how to use some power tools, make up and costuming, lighting and sound and also how to carry themselves confidently.”
Morris said the primary reason she nominated Lawson was the way he was able to bring out confidence in her daughter and open her up to new experiences, in turn further building her confidence.
“He helped Katie grow in confidence to the point that she actually took a major speaking role in the fall drama her senior year,” Morris said. “I knew that only someone very special could coax her and build her confidence enough that she would be willing to speak in front of a large group. I saw the difference he made in my child’s life, and that is why he is special to me.”
This year marks Lawson’s 30th year of teaching.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.