District Teacher of the Year
Spartanburg District Four Teacher of the Year
2023 - 2024
The 2022-2023 Woodruff High School and Spartanburg District 4 Teacher of the Year, Laura Matz, can’t describe her career without one word standing out – Influence. That is how she was led to her career and what she strives to leave as her legacy.
Matz graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering and Earth Science to become an environmental engineer, but the influence of both her grandparents led her to education. Growing up with her grandparents she encountered many of their former students who told them what an impact they had on their lives as well as experiencing the same respect for her former teachers. This influence coupled with the fact that she wanted more interaction with others in her job made her realize that teaching was a good fit and has become a fulfilling career. She was initially certified through the PACE program and then went back to get an additional Master’s degree in Education.
Influence is also what Matz considers to be her greatest accomplishment. “One of the most rewarding things for me is hearing back from former students who feel like I have prepared them well for the next level,” said Matz. She also loves it when former students reach out to her for help in their other courses. This is evidence to her of a personal connection that she was able to make with her students and that they know she is there for them even after they graduate. Matz wants to continue to be a resource and mentor. “Lasting connections with students are unique to the teaching profession and are one of the most valued aspects of my career,” explained Matz.
The concept of influence doesn’t stop here. When asked what her message would be as spokesperson for the teaching profession, she stated that teachers have the unique ability to make a lasting impact not only in their own students’ lives, but also in the lives of those that their students touch. She explained that teachers can truly make a difference in students' lives, making them feel valued and accepted. A personal connection with students can make a big impact. “By helping our students become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and life-long learners, we have the tremendous ability to positively influence our communities, nations, and the world,” said Matz.
Matz’s classroom is content driven, but student centered and full of action and engagement. She demonstrates and then the students practice solving problems. She uses her labs and demonstrations to help reinforce the concepts. Her goal is for her classes to be rigorous but engaging and to teach students transferable skills. She enjoys making real world and cross-curricular connections with material and believes that this will make chemistry seem more interesting and relevant to students. “I strive to help students reach their full potential by pushing them academically, while providing them with the support that they will need to succeed,” said Matz.
These efforts and caring attitude are appreciated by students and faculty alike. “I was extremely excited for Laura when she was named WHS Teacher of the Year, but filled with pride when she was named Spartanburg School District Four Teacher of the Year. Laura brings a unique perspective to the classroom with her workforce experience,” said Principal Christine Morris. “The students respect her knowledge of the subject and know that she will do everything she can to help them understand it and be successful. I personally would love to be able to participate in her labs, from making crystals to the “unknown substance” lab,” continued Morris.
Matz currently teaches Chemistry, Advanced Placement Chemistry and AP Environmental Science and is looking forward to further developing her curriculum for AP Environmental Science which is a new course in her schedule.
Matz enjoys spending her free time running and being with her family, husband Dan, and three children Ryan (8), Erin (4) and Keegan (1).