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College of Education

    Senior Erial Cooper is named Teacher Candidate to Watch by South Carolina Association for Middle Level Education

    The daughter of two educators is ready to follow in her parents’ footsteps 

     Erial Cooper is no stranger to the classroom. Her parents, Eric and Victoria Cooper, are both educators. She grew up observing her parents lead classrooms — her mom now serves as a principal at Darlington Middle School, and her father is a curriculum coordinator at Lamar High School. While it is no surprise that Cooper was named “Teacher Candidate to Watch” by the South Carolina Association for Middle Level Education, she is still in disbelief. 

     “My parents were ecstatic,” Cooper shares about telling her parents the news. “My mom ran all around her office and was a little upset that I told my dad first. My dad is immensely proud that I am following in their footsteps.” 

    Cooper’s mother began her career as a social studies teacher in Darlington. She visited her mother’s classroom when she was as young as five. She was under strict instructions to keep quiet, but she found herself telling fellow students to quiet down and listen to her mother’s teaching. She also had the opportunity of observing other teachers at her parents’ schools. Her exposure to many teachers and teaching practices in school and growing up provided an excellent canvas to build from after graduation. 

    “I always tell everyone that I knew I wanted to be a teacher even then,” says Cooper. “Both my parents graduated from the University of South Carolina, so I have followed their path here. I love exploring all that the university has to offer. You can do anything here!” 

    Cooper has really discovered her teaching style as she completes her senior internship in school. She began college thinking she might teach elementary classes but has enjoyed the challenge of middle school. 

    “Everyone kept telling me how hard it is to teach middle school,” Cooper says. “I was really drawn to this age level because I remembered my middle school experience. I know establishing clear expectations and directions is what makes a successful middle school classroom. All they need is a little guidance.”

    Cooper has leaned on her mentor teachers, Jennifer Germann and Kathryn Campbell throughout her internship experience, at Blythewood Middle School. She is currently completing her full internship with Germann.

     “My coaching teacher is wonderful,” Cooper says. “She leads me and gives me books, teaching ideas and tools to be successful. My experience has been phenomenal, and I want to stay at this school after graduation.” 

    Cooper shares that student teaching has taught her to embrace the different personalities of her students. She knows that her most quiet students are often processing deeply, and she is learning how to communicate with different learning styles. She also credits her professor, Toni Williams, with creating a safe environment that she hopes to emulate in her own classroom. 

    “She encourages us to talk amongst ourselves about her lessons,” Cooper says. “We have built a classroom where we are not strangers, we are all friends. My classmates encourage me, and we critique each other’s work.” 

    Cooper says that she hopes to bring these classroom connections into the field. While her classmates have encouraged her, Cooper shares that her family has been her biggest inspiration. Among her parents who are educators, she has an older sister, Emerald Cooper. She is in her fourth year of teaching at Kelly Middle School.

    “My sister inspires me,” Cooper says. “Often, I call or text her to look over my lesson plans because she has excellent insight. I appreciate her so much. It has been a gift to watch my family teach. I remember watching my dad and thinking that I want to do that same lesson one day! I used to think that it would be so long before I could have a classroom of my own, but now it is here!

    Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.