Growing up in school Mary Ellen Foster observed how her peers could be mean and cruel to each other, and her heart went out to those kids.
Foster was born with a cleft palate and understood what it was like to be picked on.
“That is one of the main reasons I went into teaching,” she said.
Foster, now 39, was inspired to help those children and build their self-esteem and create relationships with them so they would not have to go through what she went through.
“I don’t like to see kids getting picked on…and that’s the main reason I got into teaching,” she said.
Foster now teaches fourth and fifth grade students at Summerville Elementary School. This is her sixth year in Dorchester District Two and all six years have been served at SES, although she taught kindergarten her first two years at the school.
Foster is a Summerville resident but born and raised in upstate New York in Johnstown. She has been a teacher a total of 14 years.
Foster attended Southern Connecticut State University, where she double majored in elementary education and psychology and minored in Spanish. She obtained her masters in special education through the school. She started her career teaching in Connecticut until she met her now-husband Jim, who was travelling on business at the time, and eventually moved to Summerville to be with him as well as several family members who now live in the Sumter area.
At school Foster stays active on the Lighthouse Committee and serves on the Crisis Team. She was named Teacher of the Year this school year.
“Basically, I help out,” she said. “I do a lot with PDIF, like getting things ready for Leadership Day – I taught the kids the dance for Leadership Day this year. I do anything and everything.”
Foster said she enjoys teaching elementary grades. There was a time when Foster thought she was never going to leave Kindergarten.
“I’m a goofy, I-don’t-care-what-other-people-think-of-me kind of person,” she said. “I like elementary because I am not sure if I would be able to form those relationships with the older kids. They’re sweeter, they’re kinder, they’re more loving.”
Foster said she is not sure if she has had a “worst” experience teaching but has had her share of scary experiences; one time, during her second or third year teaching in Connecticut, Foster had a student who had a dad with a restraining order and her class had to go on lockdown because the school received word that the dad was coming to the school to get the child, and she was under no means allowed to open the door.
“For me that was scary because I did not know ahead of time – I got debriefed after the fact,” she said. “That whole year I basically had to do things differently just in case, as a precautionary measure.”
She also once had a scary situation with a student who had a severe peanut allergy; all he had to do was walk by it and would go into shock.
“Those things could happen to anyone,” she added.
Her best experience teaching is anytime she walks down the hall, comes across a student that knows her, and that student lights up.
“The relationships that have been built between me and my students – that has been the best thing about teaching,” she said.
Foster’s professional goal is to eventually move up; she said she has considered becoming a district level interventionist or maybe a media specialist.
Foster and her husband have a four sons; Jim has a 13-year-old named Dominic from a previous marriage and Foster has 11-year-old Jacob Hamilton from a previous marriage as well. Together she and her husband have 5-year-old Luke and 3-year-old Asher. Foster has been with Jim for eight years.
The family has no pets but Foster said they all enjoy doing things together outside like go to the park. The Fosters are also avid card players.
Foster herself enjoys trying new things; she likes roller blading and any kind of sport. She loves sewing, quilting and scrapbooking and just took up crocheting. She also enjoys spending time with her kids, and said her life goal is to live each day to the fullest.
“I am an ‘anything’ type person,” she said. “I go with the flow.”