NEWBERRY — Paige Rister strives to give her fourth-grade students a passion for learning inspired by the character Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables, a movie she watched countless times growing up because it was one of her mother’s favorites.
“I wanted to be just like Anne Shirley from the story,” Rister said. “She became a teacher and inspired her students to have a passion for learning.”
Rister said Shirley’s character overcame numerous trials and tribulations, and her mother always inspired her to work hard and to do her best, while her father encouraged her to always lend a hand to those in need.
Attending high school at Mid-Carolina, Rister got involved in numerous activities. She was a member of the band, playing the clarinet, and a member of the Army JROTC, eventually working up to being a Cadet Major, a rank of a student officer second-in-command of the battalion.
Rister was also a member of the JROTC Color Guard and still clogging as a member of her dance competition team.
In her senior year of high school, Rister enrolled in a teacher cadet class, traveling to Little Mountain Elementary, gaining observation and her own teaching experience.
“That’s when I truly decided to become a teacher,” she said.
Rister believes her involvement in band, JROTC and dance shaped her into the person she is today, honing the character traits of perseverance, discipline, respect, punctuality, endurance, organization, and others.
Going to Newberry College to pursue a degree in education, Rister got involved with multiple organizations and academic honor societies.
Although attending college closer to home might not be the popular choice for some, Rister said she was better for staying close to home and attending a small college because she was able to communicate with her classmates and professors and get to know them.
“Everything I learned during my high school years transferred to my college years on a greater scale,” Rister said. “I learned to always ask questions, no matter if I was unsure how it would sound to the other person. I also began to understand how networking among your peers and Newberry alumni could help me gain new perspectives and ideas.”
Graduating in 2009 from Newberry College with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education with an early childhood add-on and minors in history and communications, the 26-year-old Rister is now beginning her fifth year of teaching.
In her first year of teaching, she taught sixth grade language arts and social studies at Bell Street Middle School in Clinton. From there, she moved to Little Mountain Elementary where she teaches fourth grade.
Making a positive difference in the lives of her students every day is what Rister loves about her career.
“They are our future and the support and guidance that we can lend to them as educators is so important to their development as citizens of our country,” Rister said of her students.
Currently Rister is working to start an after-school Geography Club for fourth and fifth grades at Little Mountain Elementary. Her hope is that it will raise awareness for geography and that one of the school’s students will compete in the National Geographic’s Geography Bee in Columbia this year.
Most recently, after attending a Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA) meeting, Rister was approached by Lynn Dowd from Newberry College about writing press releases and working to promote teacher cadets and teaching fellows at Newberry College.
Jennifer Morrison, chair of the Education Department at Newberry College, asked Rister to become the Teacher Education Program’s Alumni Coordinator. Rister will take on this role while continuing to teach at LME.
Rister said her main focus in the position is reconnecting with alumni and graduates from Newberry’s Teacher Education program. This year, she will gather information and publish six newsletters with updates and use an online mailing system to distribute the publications to alumni.
The newsletters will inform them of the happenings at Newberry College. Rister also will be in charge of updating the education program’s Facebook page, and hopes to tackle the task of updating the databases with past Newberry College graduates.
For Rister, working with Newberry College is fulfilling a dream she’s always had of working with various teacher preparation programs plus she’ll be using what she remembers from her time at Newberry College and using that to connect with alumni.
“I have journeyed back to my roots and have the chance to involve our alumni in the excitement and happenings of our college and plans for the future,” Rister said.
Elyssa Parnell can be reached at 803-276-0625, ext. 108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.