Blythewood teacher named STEM Educator of the Year.

Warren Wise didn't plan to become a teacher, but his career detour now in its 16th year has proven to be a successful path.

Wise, a science teacher at Blythewood's Kelly Mill Middle School in Richland School District Two, was named the inaugural S.C. STEM Educator of the Year on Tuesday as part of a ceremony recognizing STEM Education Day at the S.C. Statehouse.

Wise was chosen from more than 250 nominees and a field of five finalists by a coalition including state education advocates South Carolina Future Minds and S2TEM Centers SC.

Wise, who graduated from Benedict College with a degree in psychics, originally planned on a career as a medical illustrator.

"Working with students at Benedict College, I found a passion for teaching, and it just kept going on from there," he said.

Wise was joined at the ceremony by his fellow finalists, S.C. Speaker of the House Jay Lucas and science, technology, engineering and math students from throughout the state. Robotics teams from S.C. middle and high schools including A.C. Flora demonstrated their creations on the Statehouse lawn, and Lt. Gov. Pamela Sue Evette read a proclamation from Gov. Henry McMaster recognizing the positive effects of STEM education.

Lucas said focusing on STEM education will help address the state's workforce needs.

"We understand what STEM education means to the state of South Carolina. We understand how the state continues to grow, continues to bring in high-tech jobs, and we need to fill those jobs," Lucas said. "Right now, we have about 70,000 jobs that are unfilled, and a lot of those jobs are STEM jobs."

Evette noted the presence of advanced manufacturing companies such as Boeing, Volvo and BMW in the state as examples of the industry opportunities a workforce trained in STEM fields can create.

"We need to make sure that our educational system is in line with the 21st century," she said. "We need to make sure that we keep turning out a workforce that makes those kind of businesses want to call South Carolina their home."

The STEM Educator of the Year award was created to recognize and inspire the state's teachers, said Caroline Mauldin, executive director of S.C. Future Minds, a nonprofit that works with state school districts and leading S.C. businesses.

"We believe that it really takes a village to support our public schools and our public school teachers," Mauldin said.

Wise also worked for the S.C. Department of Education before entering the classroom, traveling the...

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