March Staff Member of the Month: Christine Cleary

Ashley Flint, Staff Writer

Biology and Biomedical Science teacher Christine Cleary was in the middle of teaching her fourth block biomed class when suddenly she heard a knock on the door. When she opened it, eight administrators walked in, grinning along with fellow biomed teachers Ian Banker and Kevin Sneed.

The faces of her students suddenly grew nervous and confused as the administrators told her students to put their bookbags up on their desks.

And to make things even more confusing, one of the administrators asked her students how it felt to be in the presence of greatness.

All confusion is put aside when it is announced that Cleary has won the March Teacher of the Month.

Although she has been a teacher for the past 14 years, teaching was not the career Cleary originally had in mind.

“I started life as a performer, and that’s what I wanted to major in. I ended up hurting my knee so I didn’t go forward with that,” Cleary said. “But I up north in Delaware directed and choreographed about five shows a year.”

With the intent of being a dance major, Cleary was upset when she found out that they were pulling fine arts out of schools and making them extracurricular activities instead. She knew that it would be silly to major in something that she could not actually teach. But she had a backup plan to become a certified science teacher and decided to go through with that instead.

“My second choice in life was that I wanted to work for the CDC [Center for Disease Control], so I went to school for science and got my masters in that just to kind of be in the field,” Cleary said. “But I like teaching kids more than I like sitting in a lab.”

Even though she was still in college, Cleary’s first teaching job was in drama at a public school in Delaware as well as being the theatre specialist for her school district, which consisted of coordinating all arts programs and determining what shows they would do. She then taught science along with drama classes at the Diocese of Wilmington for eight years and then switched to Howard High School of Technology for three years.

During her spring break in 2013, Cleary came down to Charleston to visit family. When she did, she popped in Wando in curiosity and met Lucy Beckham, who immediately asked her to fill out an application. Despite not being ready to move yet, Cleary hoped to land a job at Wando years later when she finally came to Charleston for good and was able to get herself an interview.

As if it could not come soon enough, the day of Cleary’s interview for the job at Wando finally came.

“The interview was weird because I had to physically fly down for the interview. We were definitely moving down here and I didn’t know too much at the schools so I was kind of nervous,” Cleary said. “But the interview was so nice. I wasn’t used to the southern hospitality and I left really happy because they had asked me about the fine arts situation besides science as well.”

Lucky for Cleary, she was hired.

And since then, Cleary has spent the past three years enjoying her job as a teacher at Wando.

Not only does she teach science classes, but Cleary also directs Wando’s annual musical.

“When I came down here in my interview they asked me if I would be interested [in directing the musical] and I was like, ‘Oh my god! This is perfect!’, Cleary said. “I almost need that in my life to be happy. I love performing, so it was a great opportunity that it was available when I was interviewing for a science job.”

Cleary now smiles every time she looks at her March Teacher of the Month plaque on her desk and is so proud of it that she plans to keep it there.