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By Jesef Williams

Bryan Coburn brought a sense of humor and enthusiasm to the stage that captivated the audience Tuesday at the Lancaster High School auditorium.

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Coburn, the 2009 S.C. Teacher of the Year, was guest speaker during the Lancaster County School District’s opening assembly for teachers.

Coburn told the crowd it’s his dedication and toughness that really helps him be effective.

“To be a good teacher, you’re going to have to be tough,” said Coburn, who teachers business, computer programing and pre-engineering at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill. “We never did well when we thought life was going to be easy.”

Coburn challenged all the educators in attendance to apply three qualities as they begin the 2009-10 school year. He encouraged them to be innovative, committed and enduring.

He said teachers must take advantage of all opportunities to do things differently, go beyond the minimum requirements and brace for hardships along the way.

“Nothing worth doing is ever easy,” he said. “Small sacrifices lead to great victories.”

To accommodate all the district’s educators Tuesday, a morning program was held in the auditorium for all elementary teachers and an afternoon session was for all middle and high school teachers.

Great Teaching awards

During the assemblies, the 2009 Celebrate Great Teaching award winners were announced. These awards, handed out at the beginning of each school year, recognize the district’s top teachers from the previous school year.

Four teachers are honored, with one named the district’s top teacher of the year.

This year’s district winner is Karen Dingler, who teaches eighth grade English at Buford Middle School. Dingler was also the district’s middle school winner.

“It’s not one of the things you expect,” Dingler said about the award. “I love what I do and I think that’s what makes the difference. You love your children and it shows through.”

As the district’s top teacher, Dingler will be eligible for the S.C. Teacher of the Year award this year.

Paula Adams, who teaches math at Indian Land High School, was named the winner at the high school level.

Robyn Blackmon, a kindergarten teacher at North Elementary School, was the elementary school teacher winner.

Josh Beckham, who teaches social studies at South Middle School, won the beginner teacher’s award.

In addition to the accolades given, the assembly helps set the tone for the school year, which starts Monday.

District Superintendent Dr. Gene Moore spoke optimistically about the new school year.

“Let me welcome you back and I look forward to a great school year,” he said.

Coburn expounded on that idea.

“You have a chance to make a difference this year,” he said. “We can take Lancaster further than it’s ever been before. You can. Your students deserve it and our future requires it.”

Contact reporter  Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152