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Richland Two announces finalists for 22-23 District Teacher of the Year


Richland School District Two announces five finalists for 2022-2023 District Teacher of the Year. The finalists and their schools are Melita Cobb, North Springs Elementary School; Tracey Mason, Longleaf Middle School; Susan Mathews, Richland Northeast High School; Lisa McDowell, Blythewood Middle School; and Ashley Saullo, Pontiac Elementary School.

“We began this school year focusing on the district’s Universal Goals of Achievement, Culture and Environment, and Talent. The acronym for this is ACT and it reminds us to take action to Achieve our goals; assess our Culture & Environment; and retain our Talent. These teachers are the epitome of the talent we are trying to recruit and retain. They are committed to their profession and this school district. We are honored to have them in the Richland Two family and wish each of them success,” said Superintendent Dr. Baron R. Davis. 

Melita Cobb is a second-grade teacher at North Springs Elementary School. Cobb holds three degrees including an Associate of Arts degree from Emmanuel College, Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education from the University of Georgia, and a Master of Science degree in early childhood education from the University of South Carolina. A 22-year veteran, Cobb says teacher recruitment and retention is one of the most critical issues currently in public education. Cobb wants teachers, students, and the public to know that teachers are BRAVE! Cobb says, “Teachers are Bold, Resilient, Achievers, Valued and Exemplary.” This is not the first time her teaching prowess has gained attention from her peers and leaders. In 2000, Cobb was named Teacher of the Year at Blaney Elementary School and Kershaw County School District Teacher of the Year in 2001. She has been employed with Richland Two for 11 years.
Tracey Mason is a seventh-grade math teacher and Math Department Chair at Longleaf Middle School. Mason grew up in a home with two parents who were educators. They influenced her decision to teach and value her relationships with students, parents and colleagues.  She believes there is a need for more social-emotional learning in schools and that could have a positive impact on teacher retention. Mason holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Lander University and Master of Science in special education from Grand Canyon University. Her career in education spans 23 years. Mason has also held positions as a parent instructional support coordinator, after-school program director, intervention specialist and assistant principal. Previously, she has received Teacher of the Year awards at Southside Middle School in Greenwood, SC (2001) and Creekland Middle School in Lawrenceville, Georgia (2005).
Susan Mathews has 25 years of experience teaching Advanced Placement physics, Honors physics, and College Prep physics and chemistry. Mathews is a National Board Certified educator who currently teaches at Richland Northeast High School. She is currently in her 12th year of teaching in the United States. Mathews brings international experience from renowned international schools and engineering colleges where she worked previously for several years. In 2021, she received the Midlands STEM Educator of the Year award. Mathews stated that she “feels fortunate to teach a subject that can spark curiosity, encourage critical thinking and where students can be innovative, creative, and work collaboratively.” Mathews holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from Mahatma Gandhi University in India and Master of Science in physics from Maharaja Sayajirao University in India.
Lisa McDowell is a health and fitness teacher. Over the past 33 years, she has held physical education and health instructor positions in Mullins, Charleston and Blythewood, South Carolina. McDowell balances her teaching duties at Blythewood Middle School with coaching volleyball. McDowell followed her father’s example, who was a math professor, by becoming an educator. Her principal describes her as the “eggs in a cake” because she holds things together when no one else does, which shows her positive outlook and attitude about the teaching profession. McDowell hopes her positive disposition rubs off on younger teachers and contributes to keeping them in the classroom with a joy of teaching and learning. She enjoys organizing fund-raisers and events that promote school spirit, teamwork, sportsmanship and service learning. McDowell is a graduate of Coker College (now University) and holds a Bachelor of Science in physical education/teaching.
Ashley Saullo teaches fourth grade at Pontiac Elementary School. As a child, Saullo pretended to be a teacher but it was not until she lost her brother in a tragic car accident that she realized she was going to be a teacher. Through her struggles, she wanted to share her passion by contributing to the world of education through her interactions with students. She was able to relate when three students lost their younger brothers within her first four months of teaching. Since 2014, Saullo has diligently served as a member of the Christopher Michael Saullo Memorial Scholarship Board.  As a public educator, Saullo enjoys AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, the most because its focus is on closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. Saullo graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education and in 2019 with a Master of Education in education administration.