Jeff Maxey, the 2019 South Carolina Teacher of the Year, is a Special Education Resource Teacher at Starr Elementary School in Anderson District Three.
Jeff, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Kentucky University and a Master's degree in Special Education – Learning and Behavior Disorders from Spalding University.
Jeff did not begin his career as a professional teacher but chose teaching after a twelve year career in church ministry. Then, after spending three years teaching at the middle school level, Jeff’s career took a unique turn. He moved to North Africa to work for eight years for a non-profit organization doing teacher trainings in small villages and desert communities. Jeff says that all of these experiences make him a better classroom teacher - appreciating different perspectives and backgrounds, celebrating the uniqueness of each child, and being prepared for all that each day brings.
State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman says, “Jeff’s commitment to his students is evident by just walking into his classroom. His innovative approach to finding students’ passions has led to their success and is a model to be replicated across our state.”
Jeff is married to Evie, an assistant professor of human resource management at Anderson University.
Dr. Akil Ross
Dr. Akil E. Ross, Sr. is the Director of Secondary Education for Lexington-Richland District Five. Prior to this position, he served as the principal of Chapin High School in Chapin, SC, where he was named the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) 2018 National Principal of the Year.
Under Ross’ leadership, Chapin High School was recognized as a South Carolina Palmetto's Finest Award recipient in 2015. He also challenged his faculty to aim for a 100 percent graduation rate. That challenge sparked the analysis of trend data to identify students most at risk of dropping out, then soliciting funding for a “school after school” to extend instructional services for those students. Chapin’s graduation rate went from 82 percent to exceeding 96 percent, with proficiency rates continuing to climb, including a 16-point spike in math proficiency among Black students.
Dr. Ross’s mantra for the school was, “We are a thousand passions with one heartbeat,” and he aimed to foster an environment where students could be challenged while pursuing their own interests.
Members of the selection panel were impressed by how Dr. Ross embraces the principal’s primary role as, in his words, “the number-one driver for institutional change” who consistently builds a culture that promotes social justice while preparing students to lead productive lives.
“It did not take long to recognize that Dr. Ross is an agent of infectious change,” said Susanne Thompson, vice president for professional development at Discovery Education and a member of the selection panel. “He focuses first on helping people understand and value their purpose. Then, by binding their purposes, Dr. Ross leads a group of professionals to act to improve learning for each student at Chapin High School.”
“Akil Ross’ accomplishments illustrate just how important it is to invest in leadership as a means of improving student learning,” NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti remarked. “We are honored to recognize him as a powerful multiplier of effective practice and as a model of compassionate school leadership.”
District Five Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner said, “Dr. Ross is most deserving of this high honor. He is a great visionary, an extraordinary leader, a highly-skilled manager, and a phenomenal culture builder. He is an excellent representative of our profession and will be a most effective spokesperson for public education on the national level.”