Above (l-r): Chris Green and Katelynn Kitts are recognized as Rookie Teacher of the Year at Whitesides Elementary and Camp Road Middle respectively.
The Charleston County School District (CCSD) recently announced two College of Charleston alumni as winners of the 2022 Rookie Teachers of the Year: Katelynn Kitts ’20 of Camp Road Middle School, winner for middle grades; and Chris Green ’14 (M.Ed. ’21) of Mamie P. Whitesides Elementary School, winner for elementary grades. This award recognizes top first-year teachers, nominated by their principals, at the early childhood, elementary, middle and high school levels.
Kitts comes from a family of educators. Her mother, aunt and grandmother are current and former teachers, and seeing their passion and drive sparked her interest in education. As a student at the College, Kitts majored in middle grades education, with a concentration in science and social studies, and minored in theatre. Today, she puts her education to practice teaching innovative classes like Design & Modeling and Automation & Robotics at Camp Road Middle School on James Island.
“Katelynn was a wonderfully insightful and caring student with strong relationship and communication skills,” says Anne Gutshall, professor and chair of the Department of Teacher Education in the School of Education, Health, and Human Performance. “I was certain she would go on to become a first-rate teacher and my thinking was solidified when I saw her strength and courage after recovering from a serious car accident. True to form, Katelynn used her positive outlook and characteristic gritty perseverance to battle through her surgeries and return to campus the following fall — in a wheelchair no less!”
In her rookie year, Kitts learned how to make on-the-fly changes because almost every day something doesn’t go according to plan. She advises future teachers to reflect and learn throughout the year: “Giving yourself grace is necessary in all aspects of life and helps tremendously in teaching.”
The pandemic gave Green time to reflect on what’s important and allowed him to make a career change that supported his vision.
“I love to learn and to be able to share that with others is one of the most important and impactful acts I could provide,” he says.
After graduating with a B.S in biology in 2014, Green returned to the College at the start of the pandemic to complete his M.A. in elementary education, a program that was one of his most challenging and rewarding experiences.
He’s grateful for the support and encouragement of his professors, noting that he has implemented many of the great lessons he learned when he was a student in his own classroom. One professor who made an impact was Margaret Hagood, professor of teacher education and director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
“Professor Hagood’s teaching remains in the back of my mind as a reminder of how we need to take care of ourselves and give ourselves grace in light of the extreme challenges we have had to endure these last few years,” says Green.
For her part, Hagood says Green was always a leader: “His positive energy, passion for matching children to content and desire to grow community through collaboration will continue to touch children, families and schools.”
Green spent his rookie year teaching 5th grade at Whitesides Elementary in Mt. Pleasant, the same school his daughters attend, which allowed the family to walk to school together every morning.
“It’s amazing what play and sunshine can achieve for students’ wellbeing and behavior,” says Green of his first year. “I’ve found that enjoying sports and activities on their level at recess really helps to establish a connection of trust and support.”
Green advises rookie teachers to roll with the punches: “This is your opportunity to teach and teaching is not a cookie-cutter process. Make sure you have the courage to try new things, make mistakes and have fun. The students will respond to you in ways you could have only hoped!”
Below are other CofC alumni nominated for 2022 Rookie of the Year in schools across the Lowcountry:
Charleston County School District
- Sophie Wilson ’21, special education, West Ashley High School
Berkeley County School District
- Victoria Holladay ’21, early childhood, Mount Holly Elementary (Rookie Teacher of the Year for entire Berkeley County School District)
- Bryn Salmon ’21, early childhood, Cane Bay Elementary
- Megan Scharett ’21, secondary social studies, Berkeley High School
Dorchester School District Two
- Wesley Aschenbrenner ’21, physical education, Flowertown Elementary
- Brooke Gaskins ’20, middle grades, River Oaks Middle School
- Kelsey Lee ’21, elementary, Alston-Bailey Elementary