Behind the Apple Rita Purvis, Oakbrook Elementary School
Rita Purvis wears many different hats every day.
In her classroom she is a mother figure, a disciplinarian and a role model ... and it all comes with the territory of being a kindergarten teacher.
“I have lots of different roles than just teaching them that academic part,” Purvis said. “It’s all part of them becoming the best students they can be.”
Purivs, 58, has been teaching kindergarten at Oakbrook Elementary since 1988. Her first job in Dorchester District Two was teaching first grade at Summerville Elementary from 1978 to 1981.
Purvis is originally from Florence, where she attended Francis Marion and studied early childhood education. She also received her Master’s Degree in elementary and early childhood education through Francis Marion.
After college, Purivs taught sixth grade for two years in Florence, but decided to stick with elementary school when she moved to Summerville with her husband.
“I really like the younger grades,” she said. “I love their love of school, their enthusiasm, I love that they love you – they’re just like my children. You get more of that mothering instinct with the younger kids.
“I feel very fortunate in that I do feel like I’ve found my place in the work force. Early childhood is definitely where I need to be.”
Purvis became a teacher because she had an older sister who was a teacher and two aunts who taught as well.
“I think it was just imprinted on me all along that I was going to grow up to be a teacher,” she said. “I never really remember ever considering anything else.”
At Oakbrook Elementary Purvis stays active with clubs and committees. Teachers lead clubs with the students on every half-day Wednesday, and Purvis leads a drawing club. She has been on the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIF) committee and is part of the English/Language Arts committee, in which she is responsible for meeting with the district office a couple of times a year to discuss English/Language Arts standards.
Purvis said her worst experience teaching has been dealing with particularly difficult 5-year-olds.
“Everyone thinks about kindergarten: ‘Oh, it’s so fun, they’re so sweet,’” Purvis said. “There are 5-years-olds that are very strong willed, and ones that are very stubborn and ones who can be very obstinate. It’s not always easy.
“I’ve had many challenging students and challenging situations in my profession.”
Pruvis said she loves when former students remember and visit her, and said one of her best experiences as a teacher was being acknowledged in 2008 by a former student, who was at Fort Dorchester High School at the time.
“When the children get to high school, there is an academic recognition they can get, and in this recognition they get to name a teacher that has been a big influence on their life,” she said. “I’ve had a student recognize me for that before. And when they go all the way back in their educational process to their kindergarten teacher, that is quite an honor.”
Purvis’s professional goal is to make an impact on her students.
“My professional goal is to be the best classroom teacher I can be,” she said. “I know my place in the educational field is the classroom. I am a classroom teacher.”
Purvis was awarded Teacher of the Year in 1998. She has been married to her husband Gerry for 38 years and together they have two daughters, Nealy and Megan, who both live in Charlotte. Nealy is 33 and Megan is 30. Purvis has no pets but said her family has always loved cats and dogs.
In her spare time Purvis likes to walk, hike and read. She wants to get back into sewing again, she said. As a family they enjoy going to Clemson University football games and travelling – the most recent destination was San Diego.
“My life goal is just to continue to be there for my family and enjoy time with my family,” she said.