Choice, The PSTA Newsletter

A Letter From Kathy

Happy New Year everyone!

I hope that your holiday break was restful and relaxing as you celebrated with friends and family. I trust that your January transition back to school has gone smoothly. I cherished every moment with my children over the break, and I am looking forward to 2019! We are already off to a busy start as we continue to be a voice for educators here in Columbia.

In this issue of “Choice,” you will see the 2019 Palmetto State Teachers Association Legislative Agenda. I am pleased that our educator led Board of Directors has adopted a teacher first agenda! Please read it carefully, and let us know your thoughts so we can be the best advocates for you as possible. I encourage you to pay close attention to our social media posts, emails, and website updates regarding upcoming legislation and ways that you can help us advocate for your students and profession. I am so proud when our members come together to the benefit of the students of South Carolina.

You will also see details about our 2019 Annual Business Meeting on March 16th as well as this year's slate of officers.

This year promises to be the Year of Education in the General Assembly. As we settle into 2019, let’s all resolve to advocate for the sake of our students. They are counting us! We are here for you, so you can be there for your students.

Kathy Maness

Executive Director, PSTA

2019 PSTA Legislative Agenda

Click the image above to read this year's legislative agenda.

2019 Slate of Officers

Our annual business meeting will be held on March 16th at 1:00 PM and broadcast via Facebook Live on the PSTA page. Watch your email for directions on how members can vote on the slate of officers.

President Elect: Betsy Portune

Betsy Portune lives in Lexington, SC with her husband Kris, their cat Jake, and bird, Kosmo. She attended the University of South Carolina and is currently pursuing her Teacher Leadership endorsement through Southern Wesleyan University. Betsy has been teaching gifted education for the last 7 years in Williston, S.C. at Kelly Edwards Elementary and Williston-Elko Middle School and loves every minute of it! Her passionate tenacity for her profession is second only to her love of brunch, which she enjoys on the weekends since they don't serve brunch at school... though they should.

Treasurer: Frances Meetze

Frances Meetze is currently serving as the secretary for the board of PSTA. This is her 13th year teaching, and she is in her first year at Gilbert High School in Lexington School District One teaching US History and Government and Economics. She has taught middle school in Richland School District 2 and US History, AP US History, and AP Human Geography at Mid Carolina High School in Newberry County. She is a National Board certified teacher and was named the District Teacher of the Year for Newberry County in 2016. She lives in Gilbert with her husband, also an educator, and her two son, Lucas and Jacob. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and traveling whenever she can!

Secretary: Zoan Stokes

Zoan is a proud wife and mother of two beautiful girls. After completing her Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education at South Carolina State University, she taught in 1st and 2nd grade classrooms for 12 years. Her passion for teaching led her to pursue a Master of Education degree in Reading from The Citadel. Since then, Zoan has been a Master Reading Teacher for Charleston County at North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary School.

District 1: Cely Johnson

Aracely “Cely” Johnson is a fifth grade math and science teacher at Beaufort Elementary School in Beaufort, South Carolina. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who is completing her 24th year of teaching. All of her educational experiences have been in Title I schools in Beaufort County. She is a mentor teacher, ADEPT Evaluator, and has her Gifted and Talented Endorsement. During the 2015-2016 school year, Cely was named as Beaufort County’s District Teacher of the Year. She received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Winthrop University, a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Lesley University, and a Master’s Degree in Education with a focus on Math and Science from the University of South Carolina.

District 3: Kia Valentine

Kia Valentine is the Fine Arts teacher at Barnwell Primary School where she teaches a K-3 integrated arts program of dance, theater and visual art. She is a veteran teacher of nineteen years and has previously taught 4th and 5th grade ELA and Social Studies, 3rd grade Academically Gifted and Talented and 3rd- 7th grade Artistically Gifted and Talented. She is a 2009 graduate of the Curriculum Leadership Institute for the Arts (CLIA) and was selected as a 2013 STAR Teacher. Kia was named the 2012 District Teacher of the Year for Williston District 29 and, more recently, elected as the 2017 District Teacher of the Year for Barnwell District 45. She has served her district as the leader of Teacher Forum, a Mentor Teacher, a member of the Strategic Planning Committee, and numerous other leadership roles. Kia received a BA in Dance from Columbia College. She also attended Florida State and Southern Wesleyan University and holds a Master of Education. She is proud to advocate for arts education, community partnerships and educational equity for rural schools and districts.

District 5: Marc Camp

Marc Camp has been teaching elementary physical education for 30 years. He is a National Board Certified teacher and recently renewed in 2017. He was a semifinalist for the South Carolina 2018 Jesse Williams Little Leading the Way Award for mentorship given by the Rex Institute at Winthrop University. Marc was also named the 2014-2015 South Carolina Elementary Physical Education Co-Teacher of the Year from the South Carolina Association for Physical Education and Sport. In the school year 2008-2009, Marc was selected as the Cherokee County Teacher of the Year. Marc has been a member of the Palmetto State Teachers Association for the last 25 years.

Student Loan Promotion Winner!

At our fall PSTA Board of Directors meeting, Maggee Ellis of Lexington District Three was randomly selected as the winner of the PSTA Student Loan Payment Contest! She received $3,000 to help defray the cost of her student loans. Maggee teaches AVID and Social Studies at Batesburg-Leesville High School. She also coaches soccer. Congratulations Maggee!

Member Incentive

Palmetto State Teachers Association is excited to introduce our new incentive program. For every new member* you sign up, you will receive a $10 gift card (up to $499 each year). Please feel free to print a membership application here and sign up as many new members as you can!! If you have any questions please contact our office at 803-256-2065 or email us at

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Edcamp Palmetto

On February 9th, we will be hosting our 8th Edcamp Palmetto event on the campus of Francis Marion University in Florence, SC! We would love to see you there for a fun day of engaging, hands-on professional development.

Click here to register:

If you cannot make it to Florence in February, we have one more Edcamp planned for this school year. Join us at The College of Charleston, North Campus on April 27th, 2019. Registration for this event will open on March 27th. Stay tuned to our social media and webpage for more information.

Special thanks to our sponsors who make each event possible. Check them out here!

Come join the fun and bring a friend. These events are free for all SC educators. You do not have to be a PSTA member to attend. We cannot wait to see you there!

PSTA Teacher Clothes Closet

If you know a preservice or first year teacher who may need assistance in securing professional attire, please let him or her know about our PSTA Teacher Clothes Closet.

We are currently scheduling Teacher Clothes Closet events for the spring. Plans are to hold one in the Upstate, Low Country, and Midlands. Any colleges who would like to schedule an event at their school, email for more information.

Stay tuned to our social media for the exact dates and time for our next event.

5 Tips for Advocacy

By: Craig King, Director of Governmental Affairs

We encourage educators to use their teacher voices to engage elected officials. If you are unsure on how to get started or feel overwhelmed with the process, here are 5 tips to help you get started.

1. Identify yourself as a teacher and/or a constituent.

2. Know your facts. Don't show up uninformed. Knowing your information ahead of time is to your benefit and theirs. If you don’t know exactly what to say, please send us an email and we will be more than happy to assist you.

3. Localize your information. Have a specific purpose in mind with your letter, email, phone call, or personal visit.

4. Get to the point and state your position. Your time, as well as theirs, is valuable. Plan ahead and make your case.

5. Be respectful. Make sure you are respectful when making your case even if it is not received in the way you want it to be.

Documentation 101

By: Taylor Pipkin, PSTA Staff Attorney

Every January, people start organizing and getting rid of unnecessary items. However, as an educator, there are a few documents that you should keep to protect yourself.

  1. Certificate: Make sure that your teaching certificate is up to date with the State Department of Education and includes all of your credentials and endorsements. If you do not have a copy of it, you can view a printable copy here:
  2. Contract: Always keep a copy of your contract for the school year. It has important information on it that you may need, including your contract level and position.
  3. Emails: School emails are not private accounts, and a district can close them at any time. If there are any important emails that you need to keep, make sure to forward them to a personal email account or print them.
  4. Evaluations: Whether formal or informal, you want to have a copy of your evaluations. Most evaluations are entered online, so you can print them or screenshot them to keep as part of your records.
  5. Parent Communications: All educators have to correspond regularly with parents. No matter how you choose to communicate with parents, you want to keep track of all the interactions you have with parents throughout the year.

Grace Wins

By: Dr. Ann Marie Taylor, Director of Leadership Development

As I travel around the state meeting and working with teachers, they share with me what matters to them most.

Here is what I have heard:

Leaderships matters.

Relationships matter.

Teachers want to feel valued.

In my 18 years of experience both as a teacher and as an administrator in SC, I know that above all else culture and climate matter and I think the teachers I have talked to this year have alluded to the importance of culture and climate as well.

How do we as teachers and teacher leaders help to create a positive culture and climate in our classrooms and in our buildings?

Here are the top 4 ways you can change culture and climate for the better:

1. Create Norms. Create norms for your classroom group and for any group or partnership you work with in your building. Make sure to create norms with the group. Make sure to gather everyone’s input and create and utilize these norms daily. It helps to give everyone involved some control and it helps them feel valued and appreciated when you let them know you respect the expectations of the group.

2. Ask for input. Instead of assuming what children or adults are thinking, ask for their voice to be heard. Children and adults want to be heard and they want to feel important. Be vulnerable and share. Allow them to be vulnerable too.

3. Praise even the small things. Praise is important. Children and adults love to be celebrated. Your voice should breathe light throughout the day. The people around you will be happier and work harder. You will enjoy your job more. Everyone wins when praise is evident.

4. Grace wins. Show children and adults respect even when they don’t deserve it and even when they don’t give that respect back to you. Grace wins every time.

I am available to lead Professional Development in your districts on various topics such as mental health support, sensory and music integration, coaching and mentor training, teacher leadership, Rubric 4.0, and culture and climate. Email me at for more information.

STARs Shine Bright

By: Toni Chewning, Director of Association Activities

The Strategies for Teacher Advancement and Renewal (STAR) Program is entering its 25th year of rewarding and renewing veteran teachers across South Carolina. Over 550 teachers have experienced this amazing professional development during a weeklong seminar held twice a year at St Christopher Conference Center on beautiful Seabrook Island. Through grants and contributions from businesses, the Foundation for Professional Development in partnership with PSTA pays all expenses for the teachers including accommodations, travel, and substitute pay. Founded in 1994 by Dr. Elizabeth Gressette, the STAR program is the only one of its kind in South Carolina and is modeled after North Carolina's NCAT (Center for the Advancement of Teaching) which has been operating for over 30 years.

The overall goals of the STAR Seminar are to:

  1. Retain quality teachers in South Carolina’s classrooms;
  2. Enhance teachers’ commitment to the profession thereby improving the educational opportunities for their students;
  3. Reward outstanding veteran teachers who have taken the initiative to grow professionally and recognize them for exceptional performance;
  4. Provide teachers with the opportunity to network and make connections with other outstanding educators from across our state;
  5. Renew the teacher’s enthusiasm, leading to improved student performance and improved relationships with colleagues, parents and students.

The ultimate beneficiaries are the students whose lives these teachers touch! Do you know a STAR Teacher who deserves to be recognized? Applications are available on our website or by emailing . Teachers who have taught for at least 5 years in South Carolina’s public schools and have direct contact with students are eligible to apply.

If you are a former STAR Teacher, please save the date for our 25th Anniversary Drop-In on September 22, 2019, at the PSTA office located at 220 State Street in West Columbia. Elizabeth and Toni are looking forward to seeing everyone!

Integrating the Arts

By: Jed Dearybury, Director of Professional Development

Recently I was reading Stephen Nachmanovitch’s book, “Free Play,” and this quote struck me.

“Planning an agenda of learning without knowing who is going to be there, what their strengths and weaknesses are, how they interact, prevents surprises and prevents learning. The teacher’s ART is to CONNECT in real time, the living bodies of the students with the living body of knowledge.”

The beauty of art, whether it be visual, theatrical, musical, or the teacher in front of the classroom conducting a symphony of learning, is that it connects us. It connects us to ourselves, each other, and the world. Our students are craving those connections and it is through our work as art educators that we will help create human masterpieces on the canvases of their lives.

As a classroom teacher, I enjoyed digging into the curriculum to look for nooks and crannies to add more creativity and art because I saw its benefits with students firsthand. I was never disappointed at the results of intentional lesson design based on the needs of my students.

I would love to come help your teachers in their journey of integrating more arts and connections into their curriculums. Thanks to Palmetto State Teachers Association, this collaborative work is possible with your school for FREE! Reach out to me and let's start creating something great for your students! Email:


Join us every Tuesday night on Twitter for a fast hour of professional development! Hosted by PSTA Director of PD, Jed Dearybury, #TeachSC begins at 8 PM each week. Questions post every 8 minutes. Share your answers and learn from the responses of your peers from across the state. Can't wait to see you there!
To see a full list of all the professional development offered by the PSTA staff, click the image to the left.
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National Board Renewal Workshop

PSTA is partnering with CERRA and the SC National Board Network to offer a National Board Initial Candidate Workshop on Saturday, February 2, 2019 at Keenan High School in Columbia. Toni Chewning and Craig King will be presenting and breakfast will be provided. For more information or to register, visit

If your district would like to host an Initial Certification Workshop or Renewal Workshop, please contact Toni Chewning at

A Letter From the President

By: Matt Johnson, President

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” - Antoine de Saint Exupery.

I hope everyone has had a happy new year so far, and the semester is off to a great start. Although it’s the middle of our school year, it’s always beneficial to review goals both personally and professionally. As I think about 2019 and my own quest to meet goals for myself as well as students, I have settled upon one word rather than a list of resolutions that will soon be forgotten. My one word is “Right”. I will strive to Reflect daily, build Intentional relationships, continue developing a Growth mindset, discern when I need to Hear and when I need to listen, and not be afraid to Try new things.

R- Reflection: Daily reflection helps you to learn from and get past your mistakes, helps you generate great ideas, helps you to help others, makes you happier, and gives you perspective and helps you to relax. I am not, and perhaps will never be one to write extensive thoughts into a journal. I had to learn who I am as a writer in order to make my reflections meaningful. I learned about the one sentence journal from The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. This helps me to keep my expectations realistic for reflecting daily.

I- Intentional Relationships: I had a student once that cried every day and wet his pants at least once a week. He was a third grader. This wasn’t normal by any means. I understood quickly that if he was going to learn anything academically from me that I was needed to dig deep into his life to find a way to reach him. There was no way I could teach him anything with all of that going on. There was something bigger, and very difficult troubling him. I had to be much more intentional with the relationship I had with him so I could help.

G- Growth Mindset: Carol Dweck coined the phrases "Fixed and Growth Mindsets" that set apart individuals who believed they can become smarter if given enough time and effort versus those who gave up when faced with failure. Studies on different kinds of praise have shown that telling children they are smart encourages a fixed mindset, whereas praising hard work and effort cultivates a growth mindset. My vision I have of myself 5 years from now encompasses a much better version of present-day Matt and in order for that to happen, I must have a growth mindset.

H- Hearing vs. Listening: I am not sure if this a “male” thing or not. Rumor has that it is… but many times I hear things, but don’t listen. I hear what you are saying. The words are going into my ears. The truth is however, I am not often listening to the message that is being shared. We hear our students everyday, but are we truly listening to what they are telling us? Does misbehavior always mean a bad kid? What is really being communicated? Our coworkers can sometimes fall prey to the “hearing” syndrome. If I am to be supportive, my ability to hear must transition to the skill of listening that requires more than just my ears but my eyes and perhaps even words to understand the message.

T- Try New Things: If it’s not broke don’t fix it is often an excuse for educators to avoid trying new things. “It has worked for years, why do I need something new? Hmmm.. Maybe because you have a new batch of kids in a new year, with new dynamics, new personalities, new needs, new struggles, new strengths. Nothing in education should ever be the same each year.

As we move towards that final stage of the year, and the sun begins to rise a little earlier, and we feel tired and weary, remember the students of South Carolina are counting on us!

Matt Johnson

President, PSTA

AMBA Benefits

PSTA has partnered with Association Member Benefits Advisors (AMBA) so that you have access to exceptional member benefits. Click the image to see the specifics for PSTA members.