Home News Whitesides Elementary Teacher Selected as National Teacher of the Year

Whitesides Elementary Teacher Selected as National Teacher of the Year

Whitesides Elementary Teacher Selected as National Teacher of the Year
November 09, 2004
School to Receive $25,000 Educational Grant from Wal-Mart

Mount Pleasant, S.C., Nov. 9, 2004 – First she was named the best locally; then the best in South Carolina.  Now, Charleston County (S.C.) School District special education teacher Carol Olney, has been named the National Teacher of the Year in Wal-Mart’s ninth annual Teacher of the Year program. The distinction earns her school, Mamie P. Whitesides Elementary, a $25,000 grant from Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB in addition to the $11,000 it has already received for Olney’s selection as Wal-Mart’s local and state winner in this year’s competition. Olney was honored during a special recognition ceremony at the school Tuesday morning. (EDITOR’S NOTE: See attached bio on Carol Olney.)

Fast Facts Wal-Mart Teacher of the Year Program
  In its ninth year, the program
is one of the largest teacher recognition efforts in the country.
  $4.2 million given by      Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB to schools of winning teachers this year.
  Local winners: 3,700 local winners selected and announced last May in honor of National Teacher’s Day; $1,000 education grant given by Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB to schools of winning teachers.
  State winners: More than 1,200 local winners nationwide applied for state honors.  The best of the best in each state were selected by Phi Delta Kappa educational association.  A $10,000 educational grant given by Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB  to each state’s winning teacher’s school.
  National winner: All state winners were considered for the top prize: $25,000 educational grant and National Teacher of theYear honors.

“Mrs. Olney is an amazing teacher who represents the best of the best,” said Bryan Fenton, Wal-Mart store manager in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. “The passion and dedication she brings to the classroom makes a difference in the lives of her students, their parents and, ultimately, all of us who live here in this community.”

“Carol Olney is an exemplary educator and a tremendous asset to our school district,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson.  “We are so proud that she has been chosen for this national honor and are especially grateful to Wal-Mart for recognizing Carol’s hard work and dedication to her students and public education.”

Selection process
In May, Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB nationwide honored more than 3,700 great teachers at each one of their stores and clubs based on nominations from the community.  A $1,000 grant from Wal-Mart was given to the school of each winning teacher.  More than 1,200 winning teachers then chose to complete a detailed application to compete for statewide honors.  In October, Wal-Mart announced the 51 state winners (including one from Puerto Rico) selected by Phi Delta Kappa International educational association.  Schools of state winners received a $10,000 award from Wal-Mart.  Olney was then selected by PDK from among the 51 winners as the national winner.

Through the program, which is one of the largest teacher recognition efforts in the country, Wal-Mart will give back $4.2 million this year alone to the schools of winning teachers, according to Betsy Reithemeyer, vice president of corporate affairs and executive director of the Wal-Mart & SAM’S CLUB Foundation.  “The impact of one outstanding teacher on the life of a child is profound,” said Reithemeyer. “It goes beyond spending a year in their class.

It’s about opening a door to a lifetime of learning. In the case of Mrs. Olney, she reaches out and touches the lives of special needs children who face some of the most difficult challenges. She represents her profession well. We are pleased to present this award to her on behalf of our associates and customers across the nation.”

Since the Teacher of the Year program began in 1995, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has honored more than 22,000 teachers nationwide and donated more than $15 million to local schools.  In total, last year the company contributed more than $40 million in support of educational initiatives.

“Mrs. Olney’s ‘nothing is impossible’ approach to teaching opens doors, creates opportunities, and boosts the self-confidence of her students,” said Dr. William Bushaw, PDK executive director.  “It is evident, through her many creative endeavors, that Mrs. Olney contributes to the success of special needs children at local and national levels. Her tireless advocacy for their educational rights captures the spirit of teaching at its highest level. Phi Delta Kappa International recognizes Mrs. Olney’s efforts to maximize success for all students, especially those with disabilities, and is pleased to be able to honor her with this year’s Wal-Mart National Teacher of the Year award.”

Criteria for selection
According to Bushaw, several criteria were used to evaluate the nominations and determine the winner.  Applicants answered four questions with each response limited to 250 words; judges gave each answer a numerical score.

  1. What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to students?
  2. What self-initiated practices, programs or projects have you implemented to produce a high level of student achievement?
  3. What do you consider to be the three most critical issues in education that affect students?  Address one of these issues by describing how you attempt to respond to it.
  4. At what level and degree are you involved in community volunteer work?  Describe how your involvement has influenced your teaching.

Applicants also submitted two letters of recommendation – one from an immediate supervisor and one from a colleague, a community member, a student’s parent or a student.

About Phi Delta Kappa International
Phi Delta Kappa International is committed to leadership, service, and research in education. It is a professional association composed of educators at all levels. Member chapters are active throughout the United States, Canada, and abroad. As an association, Phi Delta Kappa works to promote quality education, with particular emphasis on publicly supported education, as essential to the development and maintenance of a democratic way of life. In addition, the organization supports educators in their work through publications, research, and professional development opportunities. Visit www.pdkintl.org to learn more about Phi Delta Kappa International.

About Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and SAM’S CLUBS in all fifty states. Internationally, the company operates in Puerto Rico, Canada, China, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, United Kingdom, Argentina and South Korea. The company’s securities are listed on the New York and Pacific stock exchanges under the symbol WMT. Last year, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., contributed more than $150 million to support communities and local non-profit organizations. Customers and associates raised an additional $70 million at stores and clubs.

More information about Wal-Mart can be located on-line at www.walmartstores.com and www.walmart.com. The SAM’S CLUB Web site can be accessed at www.samsclub.com. And more information about Wal-Mart’s Good. Works. community involvement is available online at www.walmartfoundation.org.

For years, Olney has also been a science liaison for Whitesides Elementary and has sponsored family science nights as a means to engage children and parents in hands-on science experiments.  She collaborates with other teachers to team-teach and to immerse her students in an inclusive environment. 

 Olney is a National Board Certified Teacher in special education, having passed the rigorous evaluation in 2002. In addition to being named the 2004 Wal-Mart National Teacher of the Year, she was named Civitan Teacher of the Year in 1998 and in 2000 by the Coalition for People with Disabilities.  She has also been nominated for Special Education Teacher of the Year. 

Olney is a consummate professional.  She has boundless energy and is totally devoted to the children in her classroom.  No stone is left unturned in developing and adapting means for alternative communication.  She constantly seeks assistive technology to enhance the learning for her students. Olney has written and received numerous grants to further expand the educational horizons of her students.  The grants have enabled the students to experience such things as adaptive water skiing, horseback riding and music therapy. 

Olney serves as a special education consultant for NASA, which includes the review and testing of resources, materials, and facilities to ensure NASA is user friendly for people with special needs.  She participates in the yearly symposiums designed to include NASA scientists and administrators in the special needs of some of the population.  As part of NASA, she has been instrumental in recommending accommodations to be made to the Smithsonian and numerous science centers and museums.  Olney has been invited and has participated in the NASA Space Center, as well as being a presenter at seminars and conferences.  In 2003, she even jumped from an airplane as a NASA participant.  Olney is a member of the advisory panel for the Fifth Annual Exceptional Space Science Materials for Exceptional Students workshop in Huntsville, Alabama, during July 2005.  Olney has a collaborative crystal experiment developed in consultation with The College of Charleston that was selected to travel on the next NASA space shuttle flight. 

Olney has reviewed many books to make certain they are educationally sound and are useable by all segments of the special needs community.  She is a member of the Southeast Regional Clearinghouse (SERCH), the Special Needs Review Group (SNRG), the Council for Exceptional Children, the Charleston Teacher Alliance and Phi Delta Kappa.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Olney earned a B.S. degree in Health and Physical Education from West Chester State University and a M.A. degree in Special Education from Trenton State University.  She began her teaching career in 1968 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, teaching health and physical education. She spent nearly 25 years as an educator in Pennsylvania before moving to the Charleston, S.C. area in 1992.

In addition to her professional career, Olney serves as an elite-rated gymnastics judge.  She is a nationally known gymnastics coach and a former state judging director for South Carolina and Pennsylvania. At one point in her life, she owned her own school of gymnastics.  

Olney also possesses a deep passion for archaeology.  She completed a dig in Williamsburg, Virginia, and has a scheduled dig next year in Allendale County, South Carolina. 

She is married to Rick Olney, who is also a teacher in Charleston County.  They have three sons and three grandchildren.