Editor’s note: The Sumter Sun Times is publishing a series on Teacher of the Year nominees over the summer months. Each of the teachers spotlighted were Teacher of the Year by their school and went on to compete at county level. This is week seven in the series and the final week, with the focus on Sumter County’s Teacher of the Year, Amanda Parker.

Sumter County’s Teacher of the Year, Amanda Parker, believes teaching is important because, “children are our most important asset. We are helping shape the next generation, one way or another, whether we mean to or not. “Our students come from various families and situations, and regardless of what that looks like, we are called to not only educate, but nurture, inspire, understand, appreciate and above all else - love them.

“A child’s school may be the only place they get a warm meal or words of encouragement. It may be the only place they can get lost in a book, color a picture, learn social norms, fail without judgment and feel safe.

“Teachers may not get it all right, every day, but we show up and try our very best to make a difference in the lives of our students,” she said.

Parker has been a math instructional coach for 10 years now, currently at Webster Elementary School.

She is a 2000 graduate of South Sumter High School.

Parker said she credits her family with her success.

“They have molded me from an early age into the adult that I am today. I would have to specifically mention my grandparents, Clyde and Fay Wall.

“They were a constant source of inspiration and support all my life. My grandfather was so proud of me for wanting to ‘become a school teacher, right here in Sumter County,’ that it made me want it more, if for no other reason, at the time, than to make him proud.”

“My grandmother was a source of love and wisdom that was evident throughout our entire family. She was my mentor and my best friend. Together, my grandparents taught us all the value of faith, family, hard work, education and unconditional love.”

She said she also credits her husband Deric.

“Since being together from 16, we have (literally) grown up together while raising a family and building a life that we love. He has made me the kind of wife and mother I always wanted to be, and he is such a blessing to me,” she said.

Parker pays tribute to her teachers, as well.

“They showed me the kind of teacher I wanted to be. Some of my fondest memories of school are still from Mr. Broyles’ fifth grade math class at Bushnell Elementary. We didn’t know it at the time, but he planted a love of learning and teaching that school year that I would always carry with me.”

Of memorable moments in the classroom, she cited, “The 2020-2021 school year, always to be remembered as the Pandemic Year.

“This year was unlike any other. Teachers, students, families and the rest of the world had to adapt to new norms. Nothing was as it should be. From digital learning, widespread school closures, countless quarantines and staff shortages, teaching never felt harder.

“However, even during these uncertain times, my students rose to the occasion and we got it done! We persevered through whatever new policy was thrown our way and continued to educate and learn.

“We adapted and learned how to meet one another’s needs regardless of the situation. We held digital classes, face-to-face instruction, and even a combination of both at the same time. It was definitely a year for the books.”

As for her most memorable moments off the school campus, she said they have been becoming a wife and mother.

“I come from a long line of teachers, so my family encouraged it from a young age,” she said of teaching.

“ I also wanted a career that would allow me to spend as much time with my children as possible. Being a teacher has afforded me the ability to have the same schedule as my children and be influential in their education.”

Parker said she was excited to work for Eileen Goodson, a former principal at Webster Elementary School.

She said she knew Goodson from South Sumter Middle School and church.

“To begin working under her guidance, in the same little school that my grandfather graduated from in 1936, was like a dream. I was hoping for a kindergarten position, but she handed me fifth grade math instead. I cried. I feared math. It had been my weakest subject, all my life and now I was expected to impart wisdom I didn’t have, on children that I didn’t know.

“I will forever be grateful for that decision. I learned the math alongside my students, better than I ever did before. I know how they feel while struggling with new concepts and ideas, and it has made me a better teacher.”

As a teacher, she said she hopes, she can, “…plant seeds in the minds and hearts of my students. I want them to be able to reflect on their time in my class and know that they learned something and were loved. Just like I reflect on my time in fifth grade with fond memories, I hope that my students will too, someday.”

Parker believes “Every child can learn. Of course, that looks different from student to student, which is why it is important to meet them where they are. Appreciate their unique differences and always see them for the whole child that they are …someone’s son, daughter, grandchild.”

She and her husband have been married for 21 years.

“We are both lifelong products of the Sumter School system and have been together since our sophomore year at South Sumter High School.

“We have four amazing daughters: Emma, Maddy, Molly and Abby. We live in Webster.”

Of things that have surprised her through the years, she said, “The integration of technology into so many aspects of our everyday lives. Technology has changed and enhanced so many things that we do daily. Even teaching and learning look very different, thanks to technology. I can’t imagine what the next 10 years will look like.”

Anything that might surprise others about her?

“I love history and genealogy. My husband and I are lifelong residents of Sumter County. Our families migrated into Florida during the early 1800’s in a large wagon train company.

“They settled in, and around, the Linden area, and we are still here today. I love researching our community and the residents who have lived here.”

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