Augusta University alum Bianca Woodard (B.A., 2014) was named to the Teacher of the Year Honor Court for Aiken County Public School District (ACPSD). As Teacher of the Year for Midland Valley High School, where Woodard teaches social studies and coaches basketball, this means she has advanced to the final five contenders for Teacher of the Year for all of ACPSD.
Woodard is still relatively young her career, as she has been teaching for only six years. Prior to her career as a teacher, she worked as a training manager for Electrolux. But she always wanted to be a teacher and a basketball coach.
“There’s something new every day and you get to talk about what you love. It makes for an eventful day,” Woodard said.
She loves no longer being stuck behind a computer or a spreadsheet, and she loves that if something isn’t working for her or for her students, she can just go change it. Most of all, she loves the variety and getting to indulge her passion for history. She particularly enjoys the Great Migration era of African-American history, and the Tudor period of British history.
It’s important to Woodard that her students connect with the material, so she looks for novel ways to engage them. When learning about the Holocaust, for example, she partnered with a teacher in Croatia, a country that borders Hungary and aligned with Hitler in the 30s and 40s, in an international project on the Kindertransport.
“We looked at asylum seeking and refugees from the Holocaust, particularly the Kindertransport. We got to do some survivor interviews,” she said. It allowed her students to ask questions and hear stories directly from living participants, which helped to bring the history alive.
And her methods pay off. In 2016, for example, her 8th grade South Carolina history students were the only Allendale County, S.C., students to pass the state test.
The key to staying passionate and creative in the teaching profession is clear to Woodard: To be a good teacher, be a good learner.
“I’m always finding something or researching something and trying to use my past life experiences and bring those into the classroom. My friend calls me Indiana Jones,” she said. In fact, she was once so engrossed in weeding through a stack of books that she got locked in a local bookstore after closing.
For aspiring or new educators, Woodard gives two pieces of advice: Know how to implement technology in the classroom, and build a support structure. She rattled off a long list of people who supported or influenced her before and during her career in education, including her mother, Linda Woodard, who Woodard said was her first teacher. But her list also included old managers who helped her to improve and her current Midland Valley High School principal, Kristie Brooks, who always has an open door and a ready ear.
“I have people who I can reach out to across the U.S. and it’s a diverse group of people in education. This is a core group of people who help each other troubleshoot any problem,” she said.
Teach because you love it, but teach what you like, she said. Woodard likes the stories behind the history she teaches: “When I start digging and making connections, it gets me excited.”
In addition to Woodard, Aiken County’s 2021-22 Teacher of the Year Honor Court includes Schofield Middle School Spanish Teacher Carolyn Anderson, Kennedy Middle School Special Education Teacher Carole Collum, South Aiken High School English Teacher Ola Martin, Langley-Bath-Clearwater (LBC) Middle School English Language Arts Teacher Rosalyn Greene, and Leavelle McCampbell Middle School ESOL Teacher Sarah Ann Wood.