Teacher Appreciation Week

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked United Way staffers to share stories about some of the influential teachers in our lives. This is what we heard:

“Mr. Maxie Preshia was my seventh grade social studies teacher at League Academy, military veteran, first coach, and the first black male teacher that I have ever had. Growing up with a lot of health challenges, my mother was always afraid to allow me to play organized sports. Mr. Preshia was not only a knowledgeable, engaging teacher, but he was a mentor and I aspired to be as influential as he was. He convinced my mother to allow me to play on his city basketball team, and from that moment I was allowed to play and excel at sports in high school. He followed my career and often sent congratulatory emails my way! Unfortunately, he passed a few years ago, but his influence and impact live on.”

Edward Anderson, OnTrack Greenville Executive Director

“Dr. Roberto was my history professor during my last semester of college. He wrote me a very touching email before I graduated that I still occasionally read. He made history connect to the present world, and he saw my potential. His encouragement is part of the reason that I am in this role today. It always feels good when someone sees my light and encourages me to let it shine.”

Channing Banks, Community Engagement Manager

“Prof. Valdes was one of my favorite core professors. He was inspiring and had faith in me when I didn’t have it in myself. There were so many times when I doubted my skills and abilities to make it through and actually be successful in the real world with a studio art degree, but he was always a very real and encouraging voice that empowered me to keep going and believe in myself.

At the foundation, we know teachers are there to provide knowledge, information, and skills — but I believe the most important thing they do is act as role models for us and encourage the boldness to believe in ourselves and to recover and come back harder and better when we fail. Big shout to the teachers out there making giant impacts!”

Adrienne Boone, Graphic Designer

“Danny McDowell was my teacher, my coach, my principal and my mentor. I didn’t realize it at the time, but his guidance and caring attitude truly made an impact in my life. He taught and lived his life in a way that exemplified kindness and fairness all while being a charismatic leader. In recent years I’ve had the privilege to volunteer with Mr. McDowell as we both served in roles with our local youth association. He is still a kind, fair and charismatic leader. Thank you for making an impact, Mr. McDowell!”

Paula Elrod, Prospect Management & Development Director

“My fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Mayobre at Neabsco Elementary in Woodbridge, Virginia, really sparked my love of learning. She was extremely caring and invested in cultivating her students in their path to knowledge. She had stations within her classroom for different activities based on different subjects we were learning. I was in love with the reading section. That was always my first and only choice when we got to pick where we wanted to start the day. She made a comfortable place to sit and read whichever book we chose from the pile. We’d of course have to write a synopsis of the book afterwards, which I didn’t mind so much. The other stations were fun too, but I remember the reading nook the most as it really ignited my love of reading that I retain to this day. Thank you, Ms. Mayobre, for opening up my imagination and ability to visit any world I want when the mood strikes.”

– Angela Henson, Prospect Development Manager

“I will never forget my Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Davis. She was always so kind. She actually had all of her students over to her house to make cookies to give out to the other teachers in the school. Can you imagine, all those little 5-year-olds making cookies together? She was a very patient, loving person I have always remembered throughout the years.”

– Kathy Laven, Front Office Coordinator

“Mindi Penn, my high school drama teacher was by far the most influential teacher I ever had. She made learning fun and exciting, but she also taught life lessons that I carry with me today. She ensured that each student knew their worth not just in the classroom, but in life. We are still in touch today and in fact, she was just awarded Top Five Teacher of the Year!”

– Corie Miller, Senior Manager of Events & Sponsorships

“Mrs. Gould was my high school Spanish teacher. She instilled in me the desire to be curious, to explore and to learn about different cultures, all while making new and lifelong friends along the way. Because of her, I am a better person today. Thank you!”

– Heather Patel, Director of Individual Giving & Grant Management

“In high school at the Fine Arts Center I had a creative writing teacher, Sarah Blackman, for a small class of about ten students. She was one of the first teachers I had that broke down the traditional student/teacher barrier and treated us as individual minds interacting and learning together. She pushed our learning, giving us (a bunch of 15-year-olds) challenging reading like Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, etc., and then forcing us to discuss it. She taught me the value of learning and growing through conversations with others in any capacity. She encouraged a class of saying anything to learn something, or how she put it ‘Fail, then fail better.'”

– Willard Ramsey, Resource Development Coordinator

“All of my teachers at tiny Virgil Grissom Elementary School in Princeton, Iowa, were wonderful, but my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Kathy Stevens, had a big impact on my career path. She was always very supportive and fostered a creative learning environment, complete with a classroom pet rabbit named “Gandalf.” I still don’t really care for rabbits, but Ms. Stevens incorporated an innovative creative writing workshop program into our classroom where each student would write a story, then share it with a small group of students for feedback. The experience of writing for an audience was something I immediately loved and I learned that, next to volunteering or donating to United Way, being able to make someone laugh with your words was maybe the greatest feeling in the world. Thank you, Ms. Stevens, wherever you are!”

– Greg Van De Voorde, Senior Director of Brand Communications

“Dr. Fowler taught me more about critical thinking and the importance of curiosity than any class or professor I had taken at the time. His class and lectures had very little structure. He would regularly begin each class with him asking everyone in attendance, what do we want to talk about today? He customized every lesson plan to the needs and interests of his students at the time, and always encouraged us to ask the hard questions. He exposed us to many of his high-profile colleagues over the semester, and would routinely arrange for incredible speakers to come host a “surprise” lecture about whatever was going on in the news at the time. Although he had probably taught thousands of students, he had such a special way of connecting with and remembering so many of his students on a personal level. Dr. Fowler had an incredible gift of connection and fostering curiosity and I feel incredibly lucky to have been one of his students. Dr. Fowler passed away in December of 2020.”

– Susan Wilson, Community Impact Program Manager

Thank you to all of the passionate educators here in Greenville County and beyond.

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Making a Difference Starts Here

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