Blackwell named 2020-21 Teacher of the Year


Elizabeth Franklin

Chapman teacher Molly Blackwell helps a student in English III. Blackwell was named the 2020-2021 Teacher of the Year.

Last week, special education teacher Molly Blackwell was named Chapman’s 2020-21 Teacher of the Year. 

Blackwell has been teaching at Chapman since 2011 but has been in education since she graduated from Clemson in 1998 with an undergraduate degree in special education. She began her career in private schools, but after taking time off to be with her kids, she returned to teaching and fell back in love with the job.

“No two days ever look the same,” Blackwell said. “The nature of our job is to roll with the punches and, at the end of the day, our calling is the same calling that ever other teachers has: that we are here to serve students, but, since we teach students with various learning disabilities, we really try to individualize their needs across the board academically, socially, behaviorally.”

All teachers have had their fair share of difficulties and challenges while teaching through the pandemic, and Blackwell wasn’t immune to the uncertainty that has come with the last year of craziness.

“This year has been more challenging and I think, on a personal level, for the first time ever, I’ve struggled with questioning how can I make this work and how can we continue to make a difference in kids’ lives and teach when we have so much going against us,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell had to find new ways to reach students while teaching remotely, sometimes even taking materials and food to students in need, and her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.

“She goes above and beyond the call of duty, as evident by her willingness to visit students at home and provide them with things that they may need to be successful,” Chapman Principal Andrew McMillan said. “Mrs. Blackwell embodies the true spirit of doing whatever it takes to see all students succeed.”

For the most part, the hardest part of the pandemic for both students and teachers has been trying to teach and learn remotely. Being unable to spend quality face-to-face time during lessons and activities takes away from what Blackwell believes to be the most important and effective tool teachers can use: relationships with students.

“At the end of the day, my first and foremost belief is just that the relationships matter more than anything, and I feel like that’s my priority day in and day out: building relationships with these kids,” Blackwell said. “Truly, that’s when I believe I can make the most difference, when they know that I am consistently here for them and I consistently care and when they know I want to be their number one fan in all aspects of life.”

Blackwell’s heart for her students is evident, and her desire to connect with kids makes her a powerful influence in their lives. 

“We are so fortunate to have someone like Mrs. Blackwell impacting our students each day,” McMillan said. “She is truly kind, genuine, loving, and intentional about her work and her desire to see our students succeed. 

COVID-19 has made teaching a challenge for everyone, and Blackwell feels that this award is more special than ever. 

“It is very humbling to say the least, and it really does mean more to me now than ever just to know that my colleagues and friends that have supported me through the good and the bad times believe in my heart for these kids,” Blackwell said. “It’s a huge honor to be voted (Teacher of the Year).”