West Columbia, SC - Busbee Creative Arts Academy teacher Alex Pinto had no idea what she was walking into as she headed down the seventh-grade hall Thursday morning.
As she entered the main atrium, cheers and applause erupted from students, colleagues and district administrators alike. Balloons spilled out onto the floor. There were cupcakes, signs and pom-poms.
Then, she realized it was all for her.
Pinto was met by Lexington Two Superintendent Dr. William B. James Jr., who announced to all that the seventh-grade science and math teacher had been selected as the 2020-21 District Teacher of the Year.
“It was such a surprise and a special moment,” Pinto said. “I had no idea what was going on, and I was overwhelmed and shocked. I am so thankful to work with a wonderful staff and students, and it was incredible to have them there to celebrate this award. I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Busbee Principal Stephanie Hucks said Pinto is most deserving of the recognition.
“Alex is an outstanding teacher leader and a passionate educator who is committed to serving the students of Busbee, as well as being an advocate for education,” Hucks said. “She inspires creativity in her students and is a supportive teammate to her colleagues and our learning community. We are blessed to have Alex as a part of our school family.”
Pinto, who has been at Busbee since 2017, said her goal is to expose her students to as many experiences as possible, from community service in her role as sponsor of the Junior Beta Club to the popular Letters to a Pre-Scientist pen-pal program, which pairs her science students with STEM professional pen-pals from around the world. Her classroom is one of just 21 nationwide participating in the program.
Pinto said she tries to get to know her students by experiencing their world, whether it’s attending their arts and sports performances, reading young adult fiction or learning a few of the latest video games.
“Academic standards are important, but successfully educating students also includes gaining their respect, being a mentor and providing a listening ear for those who need it,” Pinto said. “Middle school is an important time when students are going through changes and trying to find out who they are. They don’t have it all figured out, and it’s my responsibility to work with them to help them be successful.”
Pinto, who has a bachelor’s degree in middle level education from Winthrop University and a master's degree in education administration from the University of South Carolina, is a member of the Palmetto State Teachers Association and SC Association for Middle Level Education. Pinto has served as a 7th Grade Team leader, Teacher Cadet mentor, Data Achievement Team member, Arts Integration Committee member, Title 1/School Improvement Council member, Schools to Watch reader and evaluator, and district Virtual PD facilitator.
She will go on to represent Lexington Two in the SC Teacher of the Year competition. The statewide winner is named in the spring.
“There are so many amazing and hard working teachers in Lexington Two,” Pinto said, “and I am honored to have the opportunity to represent them.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Alex Pinto, Lexington Two’s District Teacher of the Year, teaches seventh-grade science and math at Busbee Creative Arts Academy.
PHOTO CAPTION: District Teacher of the Year Alex Pinto and Lexington Two Superintendent Dr. William B. James Jr., center, with some of the school's students Thursday.