TOTY Spotlight: Staci Bennett

Throughout the month of October and November, we will be introducing you to the 2023-2024 Glynn County Teachers of the Year.

Staci Bennett was named Teacher of the Year at Sterling Elementary School and is one of five finalists in the running for the Glynn County Teacher of the Year. She has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grades as a classroom teacher, as well as 2nd and 4th grade virtual. She currently serves as the Early Intervention Program (EIP) teacher for grades kindergarten through 5th grades in reading and/or math.

Family: I am married to Jeff Bennett, and we have one daughter, Landri. And, of course, our dog, Lizzie.

Who is your role model? My role model is my sister, Dana. She is an elementary school principal in Effingham County, where I began my teaching career. Before I became a teacher, I used to visit her classroom and watch her teach. I knew, then, that I would always aspire to be the kind of compassionate, organized, and exceptional teacher that she was. Dana always put her heart and soul into the activities she did with her students. One example is she would dress up as "Miss Wishy-Washy" and read the book to her class, and she would make her own costumes. She proved to be that quiet leader who gives good advice and earned respect from her colleagues. I have watched my sister go from an outstanding teacher, wife and mother to becoming a phenomenal principal. She possesses leadership qualities that I strive to emulate.
What book has most influenced you? I think the one book that really makes an impact on me the most is Dr. Seuss' "Oh, The Places You Will Go!" children's book. It has so many life lessons within the book that we all should live by. Reading it as a child, it took on another meaning, but as an adult, it brings more insight to life and and the world around you.
For example, I believe that one of the lessons is that failure is inevitable. Teachers must be able to live by this. Not everything works all the time. There will be days when you plan for a great lesson, and it just doesn't go the way you expected it to go. I know that I will pick back up and try something different.
Another life lesson this book teaches you is that you need to be proactive and accept responsibility. "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. We can't wait for life to pass us by or to be reactive to situation, but instead, we need to shape our own paths and be in charge of ourselves.
I believe another meaningful message "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" conveys is that you must get out of your comfort zone and take a risk. Try something new and different and different because you might learn new things about yourself and the world. I try to challenge myself in new ways in order to learn something and improve myself. My dad always said, "You should learn something new everyday."
The most important and meaningful lesson for me from this book is to have a goal and work hard to achieve it. I find that if I don't have a goal to work towards, I get bored, and begin that waiting game for something to happen. Having a goal in all aspects of life including career, family, friends, and community is important to help us achieve greatness.
I bought a copy of "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" for my daughter when she entered preschool, and I have had all of her elementary teachers write something in it for her to know that she can achieve what she sets her mind to do. My husband and I both try to teach her all of the life lessons within this book as she grows older. She is age 13 now and has a good understanding of themes and messages in stories, so I enjoy pulling the book out every once in awhile and reminding her of all the places she can go.

What is your greatest teaching memory? The first thing that comes to mind is the year my teammates and I took the whole 5th grade to Eagle Rock for a three-day field trip. We played games like "Underground Railroad," learned about reptiles, and took hikes. This time with my students allowed me to make close connections with them, and we built lasting memories for years to come. It was like going to camp with my students. We took what they learned at camp and applied it to academic skills when we returned to the classroom, and we integrated it into all subjects.

What is your favorite quote or personal motto? "What a privilege life is, enjoy the love, thoughts, and breath of each day."