Skip to Content

College of Education

Champions of Education Gala brings college connections to light

Cathy Knox found more than one connection with CarolinaTIP and its founder.

David Johnson, a principal at Saluda River Elementary, knew that educator support was a key ingredient to success in the classroom. His passion and wisdom would inspire his daughter, Cindy Johnson Van Buren, assistant dean of professional partnerships, to pursue a career in education and begin the program now known as the Carolina Teacher Induction Program (CarolinaTIP). When Johnson passed in 2020, Van Buren felt more empowered than ever to honor his legacy by pursuing innovative ways to keep teachers in the classroom.

“My father told me that I could go anywhere and do anything I wanted with my life, but that in his opinion, South Carolina needed me to use my talents in the field of education the most,” Van Buren says.

Dean’s Advisory Board member Cathy Knox comes from a family of educators. Her aunts were teachers, and her sister and daughter-in-law would choose the profession as well. Her love of reading led her to study English in college, and eventually to a career teaching elementary school.

“I always thought I would teach,” Knox says.

Knox did not begin college as an education major. When she transferred her major to education, she sometimes felt that she missed out on key lessons her peers learned early on. She felt puzzled by classroom management but found valuable lessons from Professor Harvey Allen who would one day become a family friend. After college, she began working at Saluda River Elementary under a warm and welcoming principal, David Johnson.

Fast forward to the College of Education Champions of Education Gala in 2023 where Knox and Van Buren shared a table. While getting to know one another, they discovered their mutual connection in Van Buren’s father.

“It was just unreal,” Knox says. “I was thinking back and getting to know Cindy. When she mentioned that her father had been the principal of Saluda River, my brain just froze.”

Knox realized that when she was assigned to third grade from fifth, she narrowly missed teaching Van Buren by a year. She credits Johnson with making their school feel like a home. His kindness and skill as a listener were critical in his role. Those same feelings inspired her to financially support CarolinaTIP.  

“I agree with my long-ago principal that new teachers need support,” Knox says. “I want to help make that support a reality. It would have been so good if I could have had someone to sit down and talk to during my first years in the classroom.”

Knox’s contributions will continue her own legacy of teacher support by helping the program expand to new districts throughout the state. CarolinaTIP kicked off the 2023 – 2024 school year supporting over 200 novice teachers and now serves every district in Kershaw, Lexington, and Richland counties. The program launched a partnership with Williamsburg County School District in 2023 and hopes to secure funding that would allow this vital program to expand into more rural regions in the next school year.

“Cathy and my father shared the vision of teacher support,” Van Buren says. “We are so appreciative of her financial commitment to CarolinaTIP. It was a complete full-circle moment for me to realize that the young teacher my father hired years ago is now a major donor for the program I am so passionate about.”

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.