Stephania Penley was in middle school when she went on a church retreat.
During the retreat she and her fellow church members were approached by a deaf child while they were having Bible study. Having a deaf child in the Bible study group intrigued Penley, and after that trip she decided she wanted to one day teach deaf students.
Penley, now 39 years old, teaches the deaf and hard of hearing, self-contained and resource students at Spann Elementary.
Penley attended Converse College where she double majored in elementary education and deaf education. She earned her master’s degree in learning disabilities and mild disabilities through the College of Charleston.
This is Penley’s 16th year teaching in Dorchester District Two. Prior to teaching, she spent two years in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan, where she taught English as a second language to fifth through 11th graders. She also volunteered at a deaf school in Kazakhstan twice week.
Penley is from Spartanburg but when she left Kazakhstan she moved to DD2 to teach at Flowertown Elementary, where she taught the hearing impaired program for 13 years. She was awarded Teacher of Year at Flowertown in 2010. The program was then moved to Oakbrook Elementary, where she was for one year, and she has been teaching the program at Spann for two years. She teaches seven students ranging from kindergarten through fifth grade.
She said she misses Flowertown “but change is good.”
In addition to teaching, Penley is part of PBIS at Spann, which is a system that encourages positive behavior among students. She is also part of the Student Support Team, which is for teachers who need help with students academically and behaviorally.
Penley said her worst experience with teaching is not having a planning period for herself.
“I don’t think anything about teaching is bad,” she said. “Sometimes the worst thing is planning; I don’t have a planning period so I have to do everything after school, so sometimes that balance is hard. And I have a hard time letting go of the school for family; I need to learn to let go.”
She said her best experience with teaching is being a part of the staff at Spann.
“The best experience I have is definitely the people I work with because we all work to make the kids successful,” she said. “We all mesh very well. I’ve been with a lot of these women for years. It’s nice because they have the same goals that you have for the students.”
Penley’s professional goal is to one day obtain her doctorate in deaf learning.
“That would definitely be a goal to achieve one day,” she said.
Penley will be celebrating her 11th wedding anniversary with her husband Stephen this year. They have known each other since they were in high school. Together the Penleys have two children – Aiden is 7 years old and in the first grade at Spann Elementary and Noah is 5 years old and will be starting at the school next year. The family lives in Summerville with their tabby cat Gabbie, who is 9 or 10 years old according to Penley.
In her free time Penley is an avid runner, likes to do yoga – she is a certified Ashtanga yoga instructor, which she occasionally teaches in her neighborhood clubhouse for fun. She and her husband also coach their younger son’s soccer team; he plays at Summerville Soccer Club.
As a family the Penleys love being outside when the sun is out. Penley said she and her husband enjoy taking the kids to the beach and to museums and go on picnics. They particularly like camping; they camp in the coastal region during the spring and in the summertime they go camping in different places in North Carolina.
Penley also enjoys travelling, which she did a lot of when she was spending time in the Peace Corps. She said her favorite places have been Turkey and Israel. She hopes to one day go to India. After she one day retires she hopes to get an RV and tour the country.
Penley’s life goal is to keep raising a close-knit family.
“I think managing work and family is a challenge,” she said.
Penley said she never sees herself leaving her job.
“It’s one of those relationships where you know them and love them and I’ve become more of a mom figure,” she said.