Pictured: Sally McCantsPictured: Sally McCants
Built in 1925, Rosewood Elementary School is a staple in the city of Columbia. Among the first students to attend was the grandmother of Richland One’s 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year Sally McCants.
She recalls her grandmother speaking of Rosewood Drive, where the school was located, which back then was called Fifth Avenue. Chock full of the details of the stories of many of that day, her grandmother spoke of the two-lane dirt road traveled by those who would be her classmates. Then, McCants recalled how her mother and other post-war Baby Boomers, in gleeful succession, overran the classrooms of the same school in the 1950s.
Some 30 years later, it was McCants’ turn. Not only does she have three daughters who graced the halls of Rosewood, but she is teaching in the very classroom where she was taught in the 1980s.
“What can I say? We are Richland One Strong,” said McCants. “I call Columbia my lifelong home. I was raised in Columbia, my family has lived in the same Columbia neighborhood for four generations.”
She even obtained her degree from the school that bore the city’s name – Columbia College. The fifth grade teacher of English/language arts, mathematics, science, social studies and health has been employed in Richland One for 22 years, 12 of which have been at Rosewood.
Though McCants contends she selected the profession herself, it just may be that teaching beckoned for her.
“This was my chosen profession long before I recognized it. As a young girl, I played school and pretended to be the teacher,” said McCants. “I loved how I could share my knowledge with my friends, teddy bears and dolls.”
These days, her students are anything but inanimate. Recently, during a lesson on antonyms, the students, in a round-robin approach, circled the classroom as they recited words that meant the opposite of the word on the cards in their hands. This happens not to be an uncommon occurrence in McCants’ classroom, and she credits planning as the key to her innovative teaching style.
“I’m awake at 4:45 a.m., in my classroom by 6:45 a.m. and in the hall greeting my students at 7:25 a.m.,” said McCants. “Before I leave my classroom for the evening, I make sure my classroom and plans are ready for the next day. I am a firm believer that being prepared and organized is a crucial part of professionalism and makes for confident teaching.”
Of the profession, McCants is hopeful that despite the challenges, more people are drawn to teaching.
“There is a love of education in everyone’s heart,” said McCants. “We need to reach those emotions and create windows and mirrors for those individuals to remember the importance, the value, and significance of educators in their own lives and that of others.”
Richland One embodied two great loves for McCants. She was able to fulfill her passion to teach, and she met her husband while doing so. He teaches at Hand Middle School and served as Richland One’s 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year.
The district and its schools foster a culture of connectivity, said McCants. Though large, Richland One is not too big for lasting bonds based on collaboration, friendships and trust to evolve, she added.