BHS, WHS teachers among R2 teacher of year finalists

COLUMBIA  — Richland School District Two has announced five finalists for 2023-2024 District Teacher of the Year, two of which are from Blythewood-area high schools: Will Epps, Blythewood High School and Jennifer Tinneny, Westwood High School join Stacey Higgins, Forest Lake Elementary NASA Explorer School; Kathia Rivera de Guzman, Pontiac Elementary School; and Ahmad Stephens, Ridge View High School.

“These are phenomenal educators who are making the magic happen in their classrooms each and every day,” said Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Kim Moore. “These five teachers are demonstrating the Richland Two Core Values of Belonging, Learning, Continuous Improvement, and Joy in all that they do. It is my honor to work alongside them as they continue to make a positive impact on the lives of students in this school district.” 

Will Epps is a Science teacher at Blythewood High School. He holds two degrees from The Citadel, a Bachelor of Arts in teaching specialization in chemistry and comprehensive board field Science, and a Master of Education in interdisciplinary STEM education.

Epps designed the Bengal Biodiesel program, an industrial experience in which students transform used cooking oil into biodiesel, a renewable alternative to diesel fuel.

“I believe teachers should always look for ways to serve our community,” Epps said. “My Chemistry 2 program is built on serving the community and exposing students to real-life personal and professional opportunities. Through intentional community and industry partnerships, I help students see the impact we can have when education transcends the classroom.”

For nearly 10 years, Epps has also been a seasonal employee in industrial chemistry labs and brings a wealth of experience and expertise into the classroom.

Jennifer Tinneny teaches English at Westwood High School. Tinneny began teaching at Westwood when the school opened in 2012. She works with the Teacher Cadet program and teaches in the Scholars of Academic Rigor (SOAR) Honors Academy. 

Tineny began teaching in 1990 at Lugoff-Elgin High School in Kershaw County. She also worked at Ridge View High School where she taught in the Scholars Academy for Business and Law Magnet program and the Institute of BioHealth Sciences Magnet program.

Tinneny says her most significant accomplishments and contributions in education are all of her students who have become successful adults. Many of her students are first-generation college students, breaking glass ceilings as they move forward.

Tinneny holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Columbia College and an Interdisciplinary Master of Arts in English with a Writing Emphasis from the University of South Carolina.

The five finalists received surprise visits from Superintendent Moore, their principals, and other administrators who announced they were in the top five competing for the Richland Two District Teacher of the Year.

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