Our Schools




COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland School District Two has announced five finalists for 2021-2022 District Teacher of the Year. The finalists and their schools are Andrea Clutts, Spring Valley High; Valente’ Gibson, Jackson Creek Elementary; Aimee Hinks, Pontiac Elementary; Mindy McNeal, Bookman Road Elementary; and Warren Wise, Kelly Mill Middle.

“These phenomenal teachers are pursuing the Pathway to Premier with a focus on our Core Values: Learning, Character, Community and Joy,” said Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron R. Davis. “They are delivering premier learning experiences for students, displaying premier character in what they do, demonstrating premier commitment to our community and they are creating conditions where joy resides.”

Andrea Clutts is a Technology and Learning Coach (TLC) and she teaches English at Spring Valley High School. Clutts is National Board Certified and holds a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s in teaching from the University of South Carolina. A 22-year veteran, she hopes her greatest contribution to teaching has been that she has instilled in her students the joy and passion of learning. She is not afraid to be “corny and silly” and entertain while teaching. For Clutts, the best part of teaching English is that she gets to help students deal with real-world issues while also teaching the required standards. “Students need both windows and mirrors in their learning. They need to see beyond themselves, but they also need to see themselves in what they are reading and learning. If they can do both, the lessons will stay with them and carry them into the future.” As the TLC she has been instrumental in keeping students and teachers operating successfully during the pandemic. 

Valente’ Gibson is a fifth-grade teacher at Jackson Creek Elementary School. A focus of his work is racial and social justice education practices. Gibson credits his parents and grandparents for teaching him to do what’s right and to help others. “They taught me at a young age that my voice is my greatest strength and that I should speak up, not only for myself, but for others who may not have the capacity or the courage to do so themselves. They inspired me to serve the community and lift as I climb.” Gibson holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in counseling education from the University of South Carolina (UofSC) and is currently pursuing a Master of Education in teaching with a concentration in multicultural context in education at the UofSC. He has received national recognition by receiving 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.

Aimee Hinks is a National Board Certified educator who has been teaching for 10 years. At Pontiac Elementary School, she works as a Technology and Learning Coach. One of her greatest accomplishments came during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hinks modeled a lesson for the district’s superintendent which helped influence his decision on technology learning tools for virtual learning for kindergarten and first grade students. Hinks believes “all students should be active participants in their learning. As I plan any lessons for my students, I always plan for and consider mandatory student engagement.” Education, she believes, is one of the greatest professions in the world, and she is committed to being a lifelong learner, leader, and innovator. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in early childhood education from Clemson University and Master of Science in instructional technology from Grand Canyon University.

Mindy McNeal is a special education teacher at Bookman Road Elementary School. After working as a reading interventionist, McNeal realized she loved working with students with difficulties in reading just like she encountered as a child. She decided to go back to school to obtain certification in special education and she is pleased with the results. “After eight years of being a special education teacher, my percentage rate of students mainstreaming into the general education curriculum in reading and math before entering middle school is 53.6%.”  She says her students overcome their struggles with reading and writing and she never hears the word “can’t” because they can. McNeal would like to see more teachers receive adequate training in social-emotional learning for various major issues such as poverty, physical abuse, substance abuse and suicide. McNeal holds a Bachelor of Science in fashion merchandising and marketing, a Master of Arts in teaching, and certification in special education from the University of South Carolina. 

Warren Wise teaches science at Kelly Mill Med Pro Middle School. He is in his 18th year of teaching. Wise believes one of the major educational disparities facing public education is inequity and the lack of exposure to quality curriculum and programming, especially in STEM, in underserved student populations. “Although the heaviness of inequalities in the field of education are concerning, I have continued to direct my efforts into fostering innovative solutions that incites learning and STEM exploration. I am devoted to employing the pedagogy and new educational techniques and strategies that I am learning from my doctoral program that enhance classroom instruction and student engagement.” Wise is also a finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, one of the highest honors bestowed by the United States government in K-12 STEM teaching. He is also the 2019 South Carolina STEM Educator of the Year. Wise holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Benedict College, a master’s in education technology from Boise State University, certification in educational leadership from Liberty University and he is pursuing a doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction from Liberty University. 

These finalists received surprise visits today from Superintendent Davis, their principals and other administrators who announced they are in the top five competing for the Richland Two District Teacher of the Year.