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Center for InquirySecondAndThirdGradeStaff

Second & Third Grade Staff

Tim O'Keefe

Mr. O'Keefe's Newsletters

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I am the father of 2 boys – now young men, Colin and Devin.  Heidi Mills and I have been married for almost 35 years. I come from a big family (6th out of 7 children).  Originally from Indiana, I have taught in Michigan, Indiana and now South Carolina.  This school year will be my 35th year in the teaching profession. My teaching experience includes Head Start through 6th grade in alternative and traditional settings. I have also taught college level courses as an adjunct professor. I have published many articles, chapters and books on education and learning.  I am one of the original teachers at The Center and helped to write the proposal for the school.  I teach in the 2nd/3rd grade loop. Teaching and learning is what I love. 

I am a reader, a writer, a husband and father.  Music is an important part of my life in and out of the classroom.  Knowing that this magnet school would be a choice for parents and students made it exciting for me. Parents, students, teachers and administrators all working together to do the right thing in education is a dream I have had since graduating from college.  CFI is my educational home and these children and my colleagues are my most powerful teachers.

Susanne Pender
Mrs. Pender's Classroom Blog

From the time I was very young playing school with my younger cousins and stuffed animals, I knew that teaching would be my chosen path. I began this journey by completing my undergraduate work at Illinois State University and then obtained a Master’s degree from the University of South Carolina a few years later.

After twenty-one years of teaching, I have also gained National Board Certification and have successfully completed the renewal process. I have taught children all of ages from age six to thirteen in a variety of educational settings with the majority of my experiences being here at the Center for Inquiry. For eighteen years I have been incredibly blessed with the opportunity to live and work with an amazing group of colleagues, children and families.

I have also been incredibly lucky to have my children be a part of this community. Our twelve-year-old twins thrived during their years here and even though they’ve now moved on to the world of middle school, they still consider CFI to be their “home.”

Our youngest son is in the 4th grade and still rides with me to school everyday. I am treasuring our conversations and time together as I know that it will not last much longer. Our extended family is very involved in our life and you will often see the grandparents attending gatherings and school functions. It’s wonderful to have both school and home families so intertwined. It just feels right.

Outside of school, our family loves to spend time jumping waves at the beach as well as hiking in the mountains. We are very active with sports, horseback riding, music lessons, and church activities. Walt Disney World and the Gamecocks are our guilty pleasures, but the Midwestern girl in me still believes that the Cubs, will in fact, one day win the World Series. Maybe next year.

Brandon Foote

Mr. Foote is beginning his sixth year at the Center. He earned his Masters of Arts in Teaching from the University of South Carolina in 2009. He loves teaching children about citizenship and how to communicate about what they are reading, writing, and learning about. One of the things he appreciates most about teaching at the Center is the camaraderie between the faculty and how passionately those around him work to advocate for and teach children.

Some facts about Mr. Foote are he is tall, really tall.  He grew up in Texas, y’all.  He is a huge fan of the Gamecocks and Boston Red Sox.  When he was in Little League, he hit a home run in 4 straight games, true story.  He has a lovely wife and two small children.  He has read Curious George more times than he can count.  He enjoys cooking/grilling, playing sports, reading, writing, and hiking.  He created his own barbecue sauce, can’t say it’s good, but he did create it.  He loves comic book superheroes.  He tries to do something active daily.

Chris Haas
My name is Chris Hass and this my thirteenth year as a classroom teacher. I received my undgraduate degree in education from Southern Illinois University and my Master's degree from the University of South Carolina. I am currently working on my PhD in Language and Literacy at USC. I enjoy exploring issues of culture, equity, and power as they relate to our communities and our lives.
When not at school I spend lots of time with my wife Tricia  and our four children. Like many families, we work very hard and are extremely busy throughout the year. However, we are careful to leave time for getting outdoors and playing together. We love doing most everything that involves the sun, water, or a mountain. Some of our favorite activites are traveling, swimming, paddling, and hiking. In fact, my sons and I are currently working to backpack the length of the Appalachian Trail, from Georgia to Maine. We have completed 585 miles so far. Only another 1,600 left to go! Our goal is to finish before they reach college.