Sometimes with a job change, you can find a perfect fit.
Sumter School District teacher Ureka Hilton has found that as a reading interventionist at Rafting Creek Elementary School in Rembert.
A Sumter native and Morris College graduate, Hilton …
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A Sumter native and Morris College graduate, Hilton taught fourth- and fifth-grade English/language arts for 15 years at Pocalla Springs Elementary School before making the move to Rafting Creek three years ago.
As a reading interventionist teacher, Hilton said she tries to "fill in the gap" for students to get them up to grade level in reading. She works with 32 students in third through fifth grades at the school who are below their grade level in reading. That's about 40 percent of all the students in grades 3-5 at the rural school in the northern part of the county.
The job allows her to work more one on one with students and understand their needs in reading and writing, she said. The position also allows her to interact more with the students' parents.
With her energetic and engaging personality and self-described "passion" for teaching, Hilton recently launched three new educational projects at the school - all without the use of any school or district money.
The first two involved getting new books at the school, covering various aspects of character education for the students and class-specific topics such as grammar.
With the second project - Check It Out - when parents come into the school, Hilton said, they can check out new books from the library on concepts that teachers are actually teaching in the classroom and then review them at home with their kids.
"For example, the books on grammar provide concrete examples that parents can work with their children on at home," Hilton said.
Her creative, outside-the-box method to get all the projects funded was through a national website, DonorsChoose.org, where teachers from across the country post educational projects and anyone anywhere can donate toward them.
The first book project on character education for students was completely funded by an individual out of Boston, Massachusetts, Hilton said. For Check It Out, she said she had donors from New York, Illinois, Georgia and South Carolina.
When winter break started, Hilton posted all three projects to DonorsChoose.org. In early January, she said her principal, Jennifer Howard, got a phone call from a Donors Choose representative saying all three had been fully funded.
The third project targeted parental engagement with better communication to them by the use of a color printer, postcards and a binding machine at the school. All three projects were about $500 each, Hilton said.
Hilton said she thinks parental involvement is a critical need at Rafting Creek.
"We need the parents, absolutely we need them," Hilton said.
Hilton was also recently selected for the state Department of Education's Foundations in School Leadership program. The program, which has 90 entrants this year, including four from Sumter School District, provides foundations in leadership that can assist teachers in the transition to administrative positions in the future, according to district staff.
In her 18th year in public education, Hilton said, eventually she would like to move into an administrative position, either at a school or the district level.
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