Chapin High’s Abbott represents District 5 as Teacher of the Year

By Natalie Szrajer
Posted 5/23/24

For Grace Abbott, teaching English to high school students is a way to connect with students.

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Chapin High’s Abbott represents District 5 as Teacher of the Year


For Grace Abbott, teaching English to high school students is a way to connect with students.

Abbott teaches English classes at Chapin High School and is the current Teacher of the Year for Lexington-Richland School District 5.

Representing her district has been an honor, she said, and coming back to teach after maternity leave this past year has even furthered allowed her to feel the support of her colleagues and love of her students.

“I cannot emphasize how close these students are to me and each other. My coworkers are the same,” Abbott said. “I went into labor five weeks early so they had to figure things out. ... It was such a big life change and so many hands were on deck to make it as smooth as possible. In our profession in particular, one missed day is a big deal. My big transition back to school has been incredibly easy.”

Abbott teaches four English classes for all four grade levels including English 2, English 2 Honors, English 3 College Prep and Advanced Prep Language and Composition. There are the classic books she often teaches such as Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Old texts are important,” she said but noted she also likes to introduce more modern books. She explains how introducing a more modern book allowed one student to totally change his grades and approach to learning in class.

“Getting to explain connections with students is what makes my job. As a teacher, I read a book for fun. When I finished this particular book, it’s amazing in dealing with heavy things but has hope at the end. I was really excited about it. In English, we teach many old books but I thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to teach something new with accessible language,” she said.

So, Abbott approached the school librarian and asked if there were funds available to bring the book to her students and there were.

“There’s one student in [one of] my English classes who had a 19 out of 100. He wasn’t engaged. We started reading the book for the third quarter and had a perfect 100. He was so excited and engaged in reading and he found one of his friends in class and said you have to read this book,” said Abbott. “He kept it up for the fourth quarter and kept up the momentum.”

It’s stories like that and the engagement with her students that brings out the reward of teaching. Abbott enjoys getting to see the progression and making class interactive with her students.

Even just the simple act of hanging out in the hallways and greeting students is important to her because she wants students to know their value.

“They know if they walk by, I will say, ‘Good morning,’ and tell them to have an amazing day. It’s a universal aspect of who I am as a teacher,” Abbott said.

It was as a high school student when Abbott knew she wanted to be a teacher.

“I had an amazing French teacher who did a good job of making people feel valued and as people first then learners,” she said.

Being her District’s Teacher of the Year has allowed her to sit on various committees and engage in conversations across schools and at different levels.

“I learn from those best at their jobs and speak with colleagues in subjects I’m not familiar with,” Abbott said.

Grace Abbott, Lexington-Richland School District 5, Chapin High School


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