Monday, February 10, 2014
When Katie Hamell is not in the classroom she might just be out golfing.
She might be at the beach, or she might be out trying to meet people and hang out with new friends. The 23-year-old teacher is in her first year at Flowertown Elementary School but she likes to stay busy, she said.
Hamell was born in Columbia but raised in Michigan, where she attended Michigan State University studying Special Education. She is currently working on getting her master’s degree from there as well but took a break this past year, and said she is about “two-thirds” of the way through it. Her master’s is in Special Education – Learning Disabilities.
She just moved back to South Carolina in July. She teaches Special Ed for first through fifth grade students at Flowertown.
“It’s not easy, but it’s worth it,” she said. “It’s what I went to school for. Special Ed is where my heart is.”
Hamell serves 35 Special Ed students at school and teaches them math, reading and writing. She said teaching at Flowertown is “a dream come true” because she has been wanting to come back to South Carolina since she was 11 years old. She is now a resident of downtown Summerville. She does not have any roommates or pets but said she would not mind getting a guinea pig one day.
Hamell said when she teaches she enjoys rewarding her students for working hard, and particularly enjoys teaching math.
“I’ve always had a passion and a patience for people with needs and who learn in a different way,” she said.
Dorchester District Two recruited Hamell when she was still in Michigan in April of last year. She was offered the job the following May.
All of her family is still in Michigan but regardless, Hamell said, South Carolina was her No. 1 pick to live and work in.
Hamell said the worst teaching experience she has had was working at a school for an internship her senior year of college. She said the principal was difficult to work with because he used a lot of “foul” language.
That is not the case at Flowertown, she said. Hamell enjoys working with the staff at Flowertown.
“I’ve met a lot of nice people,” she said. “It’s a super-friendly, warm environment to walk into. Everybody was super accepting.”
Flowertown has awarded Hamell with Rookie Teacher of the Year – something that came as a huge surprise to the new teacher.
“I got flowers from the school, my parents sent flowers, I got a plaque and all my students were really excited about it,” she said. “The fifth graders wrote a letter of congratulations. It was a nice moment for sure.”
Her best experience was working with two special education students who came from “rough families” and ended up enjoying having Hamell as a teacher – they both cried when they exited Special Ed.
Hamell said getting kids out of Special Ed is her professional goal. She hopes all her students excel in school and get into college one day.
“My kids make my job most worth it,” she said. “I work on positive reinforcement. I never try to make it negative.”
Her life goal is to make a difference in children’s lives.
“I want to make an impact on their lives for their future,” she said.