Coker College Awards Inaugural Excellence in Teaching Scholarships

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Hartsville, S.C. – August 25, 2017  – Coker College awarded its first-ever Excellence in Teaching scholarships to two deserving Teachers of the Year: a full-tuition scholarship was awarded to Nicole Lester, an English teacher at Spaulding Middle School in Lamar and 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year for her district, and a single-term scholarship was awarded to Johnathan Skaris, a social studies teacher at Hartsville High School and 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year for Hartsville High School.

Coker’s Excellence in Teaching Scholarship is for Teachers of the Year in South Carolina who wish to further their education. Any K-12 educator who has been designated as a Teacher of the Year by their school, district, or the S.C. Department of Education is eligible for a term of graduate coursework at no cost and, each year, as many as two deserving applicants will receive a full scholarship for the entirety of their graduate program.

“This scholarship will allow me to learn at a college that offers exactly what I was looking for—a high-interest degree and a flexible learning environment,” says Lester.

Coker College offers two unique M.Ed. programs with specializations in Literacy Studies and Curriculum/Instructional Technology. Both Lester and Skaris are pursuing their master’s degrees in Curriculum/Instructional Technology, which is an entirely online master’s program. The 2017-2018 cohort is Coker’s first for the master’s in curriculum/instructional technology with 14 educators enrolled.

“This degree will support my growth as an educator, and provide me with a skill set that I can transfer into my classroom,” says Lester. “I want to support my twenty-first century learners by providing them with the opportunities and resources they need.”

“All of the candidates that applied for the Excellence in Teaching in Learning scholarship demonstrated a passion for teaching and a desire to bring innovative and creative technology into their classrooms,” says Casey Gilewski, assistant education professor at Coker. “With this degree, these candidates will gain a knowledge of current educational technology and technological practices, best practices and strategies for instruction, and be able to advocate for diverse students.”

“With anything in education, it’s so important that you stay on top of all new trends,” says Skaris. “I do believe that the technology side will help me know what I need to use to help move my kids, to move them in the right direction of this growing world.”

All scholarship applicants submitted a portfolio with their biography, philosophy of teaching, and a short essay on current educational issues and trends. Portfolios are reviewed by the Wiggin's School of Education's Graduate Committee.

Lacey Rice-Serafin, interim director for graduate admissions at Coker says, “The Excellence in Teaching scholarship was created to give back to educators within South Carolina and solidify Coker's appreciation for educators in our own backyard. There are many qualified educators that receive Teacher of the Year awards by their school districts, and we wanted to provide them with extra recognition by rewarding them financially for their achievements.”

“It really is a blessing that’s going to help my family financially,” says Skaris.  

Another full-ride scholarship opportunity is available for the incoming June 2018 M.Ed. in Literacy Studies cohort. Applications are being accepted now.

For more information about Coker’s master’s programs, please visit



Coker College is a student-focused, private liberal arts college located in Hartsville, South Carolina. Coker combines round table, discussion-based learning with hands-on experiences to encourage active participation in and out of the classroom. A supportive, close-knit community prepares Coker students with the confidence and practical life skills they need to reach their personal best, in college and beyond.

Founded in 1908, Coker is a bachelor’s and master’s degree-granting institution and competes in 24 NCAA Division II sports. Coker is ranked among the "Best Colleges" in the South by U.S. News & World Report as well as The Princeton Review, and by Washington Monthly as one of the Southeast's "Best Bang for the Buck" colleges.