Dotty Strickland has a calm demeanor and carefulness of thought that has served her well in nearly four decades of teaching students whose development she has willingly prioritized.
Strickland began her teaching career in Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5, teaching kindergarten through third-grade students. She went on to teach kindergarten through third grade in OCSD4, where she is currently an early childhood development instructor at its Cope Area Career Center, or CACC.
She has been praised for continuing to inspire young adults, as well as her positive interaction with both her students and the adults with whom she works.
Strickland doesn't mind learning from others and is thankful for her years of experience in a teaching profession for which she said you have to have a passion in order to make an effective impact.
In her 39th year of teaching, it is her expression of knowledge and good judgment that has earned her the designation as the exemplification of wisdom as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
The honor took the veteran teacher by surprise.
"I was very much surprised and also very appreciative," said Strickland, who also teaches an Introduction to Teaching course at CACC.
The Cameron resident said wisdom comes with time.
"I think the years of experience have brought me to some wisdom. It's just great to be able to share knowledge and experiences -- the good and bad experiences, what works and what doesn't work -- with other people, including my students and my peers," Strickland said.
She added, "I kind of laugh because I can remember being a young 22-year-old teacher looking up to the experienced older teachers, as I used to say, for those answers. Of course, time has gone by quickly, and here I am now one of those older experienced teachers. I guess some people choose to call it wise, but I tend to call it experienced."
She said there are also a lot of things that wisdom is not, particularly as it pertains to students.
"As a teacher, when I think of wisdom, I don't think it's necessarily a standardized test score. I don't think it's necessarily that GPA, or that top grade. I think wisdom really is just a lot of experience in life, a lot of opportunities.
"I think it's also gifts that we've been given. And I think wisdom is taking all of those things, the opportunities, experiences and gifts, and then using them to put back into our community to make our community and world a better place," Strickland.
At CACC, she said, "We don't just educate children, but we also give them the skills they need. And I think that's where wisdom comes into place also. I think getting out and getting those jobs that require those skills of the welders, the automotive technicians that we have out there, the cosmetologists, that in itself makes a wise person," she said.
For her, the character trait of wisdom comes from a variety of people.
"My mom really instilled education in our family a lot. I've learned a lot from my coworkers and gotten a lot of knowledge from administrators. Of course, my husband reminds me constantly to think with my brain and not my heart.
"Sometimes I think with my heart, but not always. So I think it's just a combination of people in my life that have really given me the wisdom that I need to impart to other people. I'm very grateful for them," Strickand said.
She is indeed grateful for her own family, including her husband of 36 years and their two adult daughters, both of whom are employed in the education field.
"One is in speech pathology and one is in early childhood education," she said, noting that she hopes her children display wisdom in their crafts as well.
"You always hope that your children will grow up to be smarter and more wise than you, and I do think they are. I go to them often for some wisdom," Strickland said.
She reiterated that wisdom is more than "test scores and GPAs."
"All of that is so important but, you know, wisdom is truly a combination of things. It's socially knowing how to get along with others, how to handle your emotions in life, how to have those soft skills, which we teach at the Cope Area Career Center so much.
"I think all of that together makes people wise today. And I think we look to those wise people that can handle their emotions. It's that combination package, it's not just the academics," she said.
Strickland has enjoyed having helped mold students in the productive adults that a lot of them have become. She said that's been the best part of teaching.
"I think it's seeing how they come back and contribute to their community, the careers they have, seeing them as parents, seeing the knowledge that you've given to them and how they're using it to make their lives, families and communities better," she said.
She added, "We have such a teacher shortage now in our state and the U.S., but, you know, it really is a passionate thing. It's not just for everybody, and you really have to be passionate about teaching."
She praised the OCCOC for its own passion in helping to spread good character throughout the community.
"I think it's a great program. I remember years back when I worked at the primary school how just instilling those character traits in the children goes a long way. Even now in high school, I see it in them. I see them having those traits of respect, responsibility," she said.
"And I think when Orangeburg does this, in the long run it's making us a better place in which to live. We're the ones that will benefit from it."
Individuals interested in nominating a Citizen of the Month can visit the OCCOC website at www.orangeburgcharacter.com.
Veteran teacher recognized by OCCOC for wisdom
February 23, 2019 Times and Democrat article (reprinted with permission)
Article by DIONNE GLEATON T&D Staff Writer