Rice Creek Elementary School first grade teacher, Kaitlin Jones, has had an outstanding first year of teaching filled with multiple honors and recognitions.

Jones, a 2015 graduate of Laurens District High School, began the 2020-2021 school year as a co-recipient of the 2020 Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing presented by the National Council of Teachers of English. In January 2021, she was recognized as the Richland Two Rookie Teacher of the Block. And now, she has been named the Richland Two Rookie Teacher of the Year.

Jones has been hailed by her school and district leaders for creating culturally relevant and sustaining lesson plans. She describes her personal teaching style as getting to know the whole child, so that she can find ways to differentiate lessons and teaching so that students can learn in ways that make sense to them socially, academically, and culturally.

“I understand the importance of not being colorblind and seeing the racial experiences of my students because my students of color do not have the privilege to not see race. I am committed to dismantling the Eurocentric curriculum that is often taught in schools,” Jones added.

Jones graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with a focus on Urban Education.

After one year of teaching, she offers this advice to new teachers. “My biggest piece of advice to undergraduate students preparing for their student teaching and first year in the classroom, is to prepare as best as you can, but to also be prepared to deviate from your plans when necessary and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

For winning Rookie Teacher of the Year, Jones received $500, a plaque and free tax preparation for next year from H&R Block. She also received a plaque and balloons from the district and a trophy designed and created by the 3D Printing class at the R2i2 Student Innovation Center. Richland Two selects a Rookie Teacher of the Block monthly and then an overall winner, Rookie Teacher of the Year, is chosen at the end of the school year.