Sandie Ott was nominated by her spouse, Allen Ott.
Mrs. Ott is a caring, compassionate professional who makes it her daily goal in life to greet everyone she meets with a warm smile and words of encouragement. As a speech therapist in a public elementary school, she executes her craft with a high level of skill, but she is never embarrassed to seek advice from those who have traveled the road before her.
It is common to see Mrs. Ott telling her students that she loves them. She not only tells them, but shows them in various ways, such as giving hugs to upset children, listening to knock-knock jokes even though she is extremely busy, or correcting a child who has done wrong, then finishing with “I am only doing this because I love you."
Mrs. Ott’s classroom is warm and welcoming, an environment highly conducive to success for her students. She knows that children need vibrant stimulation in the classroom to keep them engaged. Thus, she makes speech therapy fun and entertaining for her students. They want to come to her class, but more importantly, they want to learn.
She never turns down an opportunity to help anyone in need; students, parents, or colleagues. In school, Mrs. Ott helps with fundraisers and often gives above and beyond what is needed. She provides Christmas gifts for entire families, summer help packages for families who need them, and birthday gifts for students who may not otherwise get anything. If a child needs a belt, shoes, clothing or school supplies, she will find a way to ensure that they get it.
Two years ago, Mrs. Ott obtained began a garden club at Edisto Elementary School. The club began with a large grassy area behind the school, a handful of students, and a couple of parents. She wrote several grants and was awarded two - one from Wal-Mart, and the second from Lowes. The foundation of the Edisto Elementary School Garden Club was established.
Edisto Elementary now has a raised bed garden area with an outdoor classroom. The garden consists of 21 raised beds, six picnic tables, a podium, fruit trees, and pollinator gardens. Additionally, Mrs. Ott and the Garden Club have spearheaded several projects to beautify the school grounds. This year, she had the students pot houseplants for each of the classrooms after reading a study that said plants in the classroom improve air quality as well as test scores. Her dedication to the Garden Club and students at Edisto Elementary School does not end when the school year ends. Mrs. Ott comes to school once or twice a week in the summer to meet with the children so they can tend to the garden and take home fresh fruits and vegetables.
She was asked how she measures her success with the garden club. It wasn’t the fact she had been named Orangeburg County Extension Office Educator of the Year for 2017, although commendable. Her answer was, “by the smiles on my babies’ faces, the wonderment in their eyes when they see changes in the garden, but most of all the hugs and ‘I love you’ I get from my babies.”
"Mrs. Ott is a generous and caring individual that I believe is highly deserving of recognition and this award," said Allen.