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Reeves took unusual road to the classroom

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By Jesef Williams

KERSHAW – Counting money and handling deposits didn't bring Beth Reeves joy.

After working at a bank for 15 years, she realized her calling wasn't accounting, but was in the world of education.

So at age 32, Reeves left Wachovia and went back to school to earn a degree in elementary education. Today, she teaches sixth-grade science at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Kershaw.

She's still surprised about how she moved from working at a financial institution to teaching children about science. And a bigger surprise is that she's been recognized as one of the best educators in the county.

Reeves is one of four recipients of Lancaster County School District's Celebrate Great Teaching award. She is the middle school-level winner for 2008.

If you sit in her science class, you'll notice her amusing, easy-going spirit. She infuses jokes into her lectures, which seems to captivate her students and encourages them to work harder.

"It catches their attention," Reeves said about her sense of humor. "It relaxes them, knowing they can be themselves."

Reeves pokes fun at herself when she gets tongue tied during class Wednesday. She said her quick stuttering episode came because she hadn't had her Frosted Flakes cereal that morning.

And when a few students asked her what she kept in her classroom closet, she quickly responded:

"That's where I put the sixth-graders who didn't do their homework," she said.

The class laughed.

"She's funny,"Faith George said. "She's a nice, intelligent teacher."

The road to teaching

Reeves, a Sumter native, attended the University of South Carolina right after high school for about a year, then she got into banking.

She hadn't seriously thought about teaching until she reflected on some of the workshops she facilitated at Wachovia. There was something about speaking to groups, she said.

And there was always the family background – Reeve's mother was an elementary and middle school teacher; her brother is an instructor at Central Carolina Technical College.

"That's what they wanted me to do," Reeves said. "I just knew in my heart all along that I wanted to teach."

Reeves enjoys teaching middle school students. There's something special to her about this age group. And when Andrew Jackson Middle's former principal asked her if she wanted to teach science there, she said yes.

Fifteen years have passed since then, and Reeves said she still gets excited about planning lessons for students.

"I love it all," she said.

Reeves tells her students that anyone can be a scientist, which is anyone who seeks knowledge and is observant. She wants her students to hold tight to that idea and apply it to their studies in future science classes.

She expects her groups to work hard, be prepared and show respect. She said there's nothing she asks of her students that she wouldn't want them to expect of her.

"Each day I learn something new," she said. "This has become the area I love."

Andrew Jackson Middle School Principal Butch Dutton said it's been a joy to watch Reeves grow through the years. She never backs down from a challenge and cares about every student, he said.

"She just embraces them and finds ways for all of them to succeed," Dutton said. "She has a desire to be where she is. That's reflected in the classroom."

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