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Three School District Five educators receive statewide recognition

For Immediate Release – February 15, 2021



Three School District Five educators receive statewide recognition

IRMO –Three Lexington-Richland School District Five educators have received awards for their outstanding contribution to the advancement of exceptional children and youth.


The South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children (SCCEC) gives out awards in several categories each year.  School District Five faculty were recognized for the following categories: Exceptional Educator of the Year, Para-Educator of the Year and Rookie Teacher of the Year.


Karan Bundrick, who serves as a job coach in the district, has been named the 2020-2021 SCCEC Educator of the Year. As a job coach, Bundrick has worked closely with the Office of Special Services to implement many new initiatives over the past several years. Including planning multiple Parent Resource Fairs for families to learn about community resources, working directly with Project SEARCH staff to prepare students for successful placements and has been a key member of the BOOM steering committee. As a BOOM steering committee member, Bundrick worked with neighboring districts, Midlands Technical College and community agencies and businesses to create a modified construction course that led to OSHA 10 certification, training and interviews with multiple businesses for each student. 


"I am completely humbled by this amazing opportunity to represent Lexington-Richland School District Five as the South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children’s Exceptional Educator of the Year,” Bundrick said. “Working with the students in our district is not a job or career in my opinion, it is a privilege. I am honored to come in everyday and have the opportunity to interact with our amazing students, parents and colleagues. Watching students grow from student to young competitively employed adults is my passion. They are the reason I am who I am and this award is as much theirs as it is mine!"


Darlene Montes, who is an instructional assistant teacher in the 4-year-old self-contained classroom, as well as the 4K Inclusion classroom at H. E. Corley Elementary School, has been named the 2020-2021 SCCEC Para-Educator of the Year. Montes helps each student feel important to her and to the school community, working with students individually on IEP goals or other challenges.  Knowledgeable in child development and willing to address any development that needs attention, Montes is just as willing to change a diaper as she is to wipe down the tables or teach a small or large group lesson. Outside of the classroom, Montes created a summer camp for students with special needs and their friends, and has run it for 6 years.

“I am honored to receive this award because I truly love my job,” Montes said. “Having the opportunity to work with such amazing students; watching them grow, cheering them on during the highs and lows- this is the true reward. I am part of an amazing team and have learned so much by having the privilege of working with the best of the best!”


Rachel Simmons, a special education teacher at Irmo Middle School, has been named the 2020-2021 SCCEC Rookie Teacher of the Year. Simmons teaches her students not only academic skills, but also life, behavior, and self-advocacy skills.  Through the transitions that occurred due to COVID-19, her schedule has changed at least five times, including adding a self-contained ELA class when the teacher of that class was moved to the virtual school. All of her teaching is natural and none of it is forced and has flourished while teaching in a pandemic. Last year when her first year of teaching was cut short, she was the one that other educators looked to for guidance on how to monitor their students and to keep them engaged over the break from school. Simmons has a great imagination and uses technology to reach her students and give them the power of choice. She advocated for some of her students to be placed on diploma track and for some of her students to have additional learning strategies opportunities.


“I am immensely grateful to be the recipient of the Rookie Teacher of the Year Award,” said Simmons. “As a second-year teacher, I am honored to receive such recognition. I am extremely appreciative of everyone who has helped me grow and evolve as an educator, especially my District Five family! Most importantly, I would not be the educator I am without my students. I am extremely blessed to be able to teach such a variety of ability levels and personalities. My students are my daily motivation to continue learning and growing as an educator and individual!”


The South Carolina Council for Exceptional Children is a collaborative community of professionals who are the voice and vision of special education in South Carolina. The mission of the council is to improve the educational outcomes and quality of life of individuals with exceptionalities and their families through the actions of professionals, advocates, and other agencies.


“We are so proud to have the opportunity to highlight and celebrate these amazing special educators,” said Dr. Angie Slatton, School District Five Director of Special Services. “I believe School District Five has the best special educators in the state. These professional educators highlight the work of our exceptional team. Their dedication goes beyond the classroom by serving students and families in collaboration with our community partners. Their work ensures that our students develop into independent and hardworking young adults!”


The award recipients will be honored for their achievement during a virtual conference on February 20, 2021.