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Eager to learn and determined to share his knowledge, Valente’ Gibson always knew he wanted to work with children. What he never envisioned was numerous accolades being bestowed upon him in his first four years of doing what he loves. In a surprise announcement today, Richland School District Two named Gibson the 2021-2022 District Teacher of the Year. A fifth-grade teacher at Jackson Creek Elementary School, Gibson rose to the top of a very passionate and extremely gifted field of teachers in the district to claim the honors. 

A focus of his work is racial and social justice education practices. He desires to see communities where all students achieve academically, invite change, become leaders and address injustices in the world. Gibson is already on the national radar having received the 2020 Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the Literacies and Languages for All 2021 Reclaiming the Joy of Teaching Award from NCTE. Locally, Columbia Business Monthly featured him in their 2020-2021 Best and Brightest 35 and Under publication. 

“There are so many of my colleagues who are doing the same work that I am and each one knows the importance of it. I cannot claim sole ownership of any award, because we are all in this together. I am honored and will do my best to represent us all well as Richland Two District Teacher of the Year,” Gibson said. 

Gibson, who is a Black male, hopes that his presence in the classroom will inspire children and men of color to become educators. Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron R. Davis believes he is already inspiring many others. “Mr. Gibson is making a noticeable impact on the Richland Two family, community and particularly his students. There is an undeniable, immediate need for more minority males like him to serve in our classrooms as teachers, mentors and role models,” said Dr. Davis. 

Considerably active outside of his classroom, Gibson is a 21st Century After-School director where he has the opportunity to help students and parents with academic enrichment. Tutorial services, parent workshops on financial literacy, resume writing, and literacy enrichment are some of the offerings. Gibson also teaches at the Center for the Education and Equity of African American Students at the University of South Carolina (UofSC) where he helps develop learning modules that embed culturally relevant curriculum for effective teaching of students of color. Gibson holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in counseling education from the UofSC and is currently pursuing a Master of Education in teaching with a concentration in multicultural context in education at the UofSC. 

The other Richland Two finalists were Andrea Clutts, Spring Valley High; Aimee Hinks, Pontiac Elementary; Mindy McNeal, Bookman Road Elementary; and Warren Wise, Kelly Mill Middle. Gibson will now compete for South Carolina Teacher of the Year.