SWU alum is Oconee County Teacher of the Year
Southern Wesleyan University alumna Jenni Pipkin Clay was recently named Teacher of the Year for the School District of Oconee County.
Clay, who is a 2003 Early Childhood Education graduate, also received Teacher of the Year honors from her peers at Orchard Park Elementary in Westminster, where she teaches kindergarten.
“I am so blessed to receive this honor,” said Clay, who grew up in Westminster and attended area schools.
Clay will never forget her professors’ enthusiasm for the education program and how they inspired her.
“My professors had very high expectations of me, which has in turn influenced what I do in my classroom,” she said. Clay feels that her education at SWU equipped her with essential tools for effective teaching, but she especially appreciates the way her professors guided her and her classmates through the details of various tasks encountered in the classroom.
“I think the foundation of having prayer for class – asking God to watch over us and lead us in our calling – kept me grounded through college,” she said. As a commuting student, Clay was initially concerned about fitting in at SWU. As she developed relationships with friends and others at SWU, it didn’t take long for Clay to feel a sense of belonging.
“Southern Wesleyan is a wonderful place to attend college. The professors have the same beliefs as you do and encourage you through prayer. There is a sense of community where people are there to turn to if you’re having a problem, and they will celebrate with you in your accomplishments,” Clay said.
Clay, who is completing her fourth year at Orchard Park, also taught first-grade and was in the PIP (Preschool Intervention Program) which helps three- to five-year-olds with disabilities to catch up to their peers.
“Our classroom is our family at school. We treat everybody with love and respect. We make sure to let students know they are important. I believe all kids can learn, just in different ways,” Clay said.
Clay also recently earned her master’s degree in elementary literacy from Walden University. She and her husband Brandon reside in Seneca.