Soto chosen as district's Outstanding First-Year Teacher

Darlington, SC - DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) – Mollie Soto, a Spanish teacher from Hartsville High School, was named Darlington County's Outstanding First Year Teacher during Monday night's board meeting.

Soto, a graduate of Mayo High School for Math, Science & Technology and Francis Marion University, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and currently teaches Spanish at Hartsville High School.

As the District Outstanding First Year Teacher, Soto will be a member of the Darlington County Leadership Council and the Darlington County Teacher Forum.

"Ms. Soto is an imaginative thinker, and this approach to lesson planning creates a learning environment in her classroom that is unique and compelling for her students," Hartsville High Principal Dr. Charlie Burry said in a written statement. "They look forward to going to Spanish class because they know it is going to be different, interesting and exciting. Her classroom management skills are effective because they are so much a part of a natural teaching style that engages her students."

Soto uses authentic materials, along with accounts of her travels in Spanish-speaking countries, to impart a real-world approach to her lessons.

Soto will serve as an English teacher in Costa Rica this summer as part of a cultural exchange program, and says she is excited to share this experience with her students.

"I believe culture is not learned, but experienced," Soto wrote in her application. "I want my students to leave my class with a love for language or at least a spark in their hearts to consider studying a language in college. I love to travel to foreign places, learn, teach, and share memories with those around me."

Soto was one of seven teachers nominated this year for the Outstanding First Year Teacher award. First-year teachers are nominated by their principals for the honor. The seven Outstanding First Year Teacher nominees were:

  • Kimberley Joy McLennan, Brunson-Dargan Elementary School
  • Brittney Johnson, Cain Elementary School
  • Julie Hanlin, Carolina Elementary School
  • Jennifer Amy Driggers, Darlington High School
  • Mollie Soto, Hartsville High School
  • Michael Brian O'Neal, Hartsville Middle School
  • Benjamin Brewer, Lamar High School

A panel of judges composed of National Board Certified teachers, Honor Roll teachers and a former Outstanding First Year Teacher narrowed the field of seven nominees down to three finalists based on the candidates' essays.

In addition to Soto, the finalists were Kimberley Joy McLennan from Brunson-Dargan Elementary and Jennifer Amy Driggers from Darlington High School.

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