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West Florence High School’s Nichole Scipio Named Florence 1 Schools 2019-20 Teacher of the Year

 Nichole Scipio Nichole Scipio explains her path to becoming a classroom teacher began with an original desire to work in the medical field.  

After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, she began substitute teaching.  “I enjoyed everyday with the students,” said Scipio, “then I followed through to pursue a teaching career in the Critical Needs Program as a biology and physical science teacher.” 

Scipio said she found teaching fulfilling for the next three years and obtained a teaching certificate through PACE (Program of Alternative Certification of Educators), a collaboration between Coastal Carolina University and the SC Department of Education.

Said Scipio, “I (still) longed to see what else was out there, turned in my resignation, and pursued a career in pharmaceutical sales.  For ten years as a pharmaceutical representative, I interacted with medical professionals of all types, traveled all over the United States and won awards for achieving sales goals. However, my most fulfilling moments were the times when I ran into my students whom I had previously taught while serving those three years in the classroom. After ten years in pharmaceutical sales, I believed it was time for a change.”  

Scipio made a general comparison of her work in pharmaceutical sales and her service as a teacher. “Pharmaceutical sales allowed me to have an indirect impact on patient outcomes; however, teaching allowed me to directly impact one student at a time by using my selling skills to get them to buy into a successful plan.”

Scipio said she returned to the classroom at West Florence High armed with the knowledge that education was where she belonged and where she could have the most impact using her talents. 

A product of a long line of educators, Scipio explained how she became to admire the profession based on her family members’ experiences. “To see the admiration in the eyes of their former students and the genuine concern for their former students’ well-being is something that cannot be described, but only witnessed first-hand. To observe those interactions growing up and to now have those interactions myself is why education is my passion,” she said. 

Scipio has worked at West Florence High School since 2012 serving as a biology teacher, a physical science teacher, and currently serves as the Project Lead the Way Human Body Systems and Lead STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) teacher at the school. 

“I believe that my role as a teacher has strengthened the teaching profession in the eyes of parents and the community.  I find it an honor to meet parents who have so much to share about what their children have experienced in my classroom,” said Scipio. “As a Project Lead the Way teacher, I have the opportunity to meet community members who visit my classroom.  During their visits, community members usually engage in the lesson and leave with a better understanding of what teachers do in the classroom each day. These interactions with parents and community members provide a better understanding of what it is to be the teacher who fosters support and involvement. 

This support and involvement from parents and the community improve overall student outcomes,” she added. 

Ms. Scipio is the type of teacher I want teaching my own children. She is fun and engaging in the classroom and builds a rapport with students that makes them want to achieve their best,” said Matthew Dowdell, Principal of West Florence High. 

Students in Scipio’s classroom speak admiringly of their STEM teacher.  “She allows us to think for ourselves and to figure things out on our own, and I believe that’s important because that is what we will have to do in the future,” said West Florence High School senior Dashanti Price.

“Ms. Scipio genuinely cares about every single student whether he is barely passing or a straight A student,” said West Florence senior Jordan Cook.   

“She is down to earth and very willing to help,” said Meagan Reeves, “and I think that’s admirable. 

“Ms. Scipio is a fantastic teacher,” exclaimed West Florence senior Christopher Blakeney-Brigman. 

Scipio has explained her philosophy of teaching: “To teach today’s students one must first reach today’s students.  They must understand how the content is relevant to their lives, and it must be presented in a manner that the students will find interesting.  From the very first day of class, I establish that I am there for them to leave my class with a better understanding of how they learn and how science impacts every aspect of their lives.  Learning is made fun through the inclusion of all students, interactive activities, mutual respect and the freedom to laugh at our own mistakes.” 

Scipio was chosen as school teacher of the year last spring at West Florence High. The Florence 1 Schools teacher of the year application process required all school teacher of the year to complete an application packet earlier this school year. Teachers whose application packets received the highest scores became honor roll teachers.  Scipio, along with three other Florence 1 honor roll teachers-----Susan Bigham, Timrod Elementary; Katharine Bobbitt, Royall Elementary; and Valerie Church, McLaurin Elementary; all underwent classroom observations and personal interviews by an outside panel of four teacher of the year selection committee members. 

At the 18th Annual School Foundation Gala on Tuesday evening, Florence 1 Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley announced that Scipio is the 2019-20 Florence 1 Schools Teacher of the Year.  As the Florence 1 Teacher of the Year, Scipio is eligible to compete for the 2021 State Teacher of the Year by completing the application. The submission window opens on Friday November 8 and closes on Thursday, January 2, 2020. 

As teacher of the year, Scipio said she believes the entire community has a role in public education, including teachers, parents, community leaders, community members, professionals and employers and entrepreneurs. 

 “Imagine what our students could do if they had the support of the entire community, “said Scipio.  “I encourage all stakeholders to call the schools and reach out and ask what they can do today.”