HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — An Aynor High School teacher has been named one of five finalists for South Carolina’s Teacher of the Year program, according to a news release.

Reneé Atkinson, an Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate English teacher, was given the news from South Carolina Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver on Friday.

Atkinson is originally from Mullins, South Carolina. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Clemson University, a Master of Secondary English degree from Francis Marion University and an Education Specialist degree from Liberty University.

“We are honored to celebrate Reneé as a finalist for this year’s award,” Weaver said. “Her heart truly lives in the classroom where she directly impacts the lives of her students every day. Reneé is a blessing to Aynor High School and the entire school district of Horry County.”

While Atkinson has spent time in various roles over the past two decades, she said she’s happiest in the classroom because that’s where she can make the biggest difference for children.

Horry County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Rick Maxey also congratulated Atkinson for her accomplishment.

“Horry County Schools is proud of Mrs. Atkinson and congratulates her for being named one of five finalists for South Carolina Teacher of the Year,” Maxey said. “Mrs. Atkinson’s students applaud her for making learning exciting and, most of all, for letting them know that she cares about each one of them and their successes in the classroom. We are so glad that Mrs. Atkinson is a part of our Horry County Schools family.”

For being one of five finalists, Atkinson will receive $10,000 and move on to the next stage of the competition, which involves an interview with a team of judges. The winner will be announced at the South Carolina Teacher of the Year celebration in Columbia on April 26.

The winner will receive $25,000 and will win a brand-new BMW to use while serving for one year as a roving ambassador, according to the release. The winner will provide mentoring, attend speaking engagements, work with Teacher Cadets and Teaching Fellows, lead the State Teacher Forum and serve as the state spokesperson for over 55,000 educators.

The Teacher of the Year program celebrates excellence and strengthens the teaching force by honoring and recognizing exceptional teachers on the district, state and national levels, according to the release. The awards assist in retention efforts and serve as a powerful recruitment tool for the educator profession.

To learn more about Atkinson, watch this video here.

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