Teacher of the Year finalist profile

May 16, 2022

Dreher Teacher Addresses Students’ Needs, Works to Ensure All Have ‘Very Good Days’

Elizabeth Link knows all too well the implications of teaching without first addressing the basic needs of students. As a chemistry and biology teacher at Dreher High School, her goal has been to balance instruction with the science of the social and emotional health of each student.

When she was faced with teaching a student who clearly had the wherewithal to learn as demonstrated in his class participation, but who did not turn in work or complete assignments on time, it shifted her teaching philosophy.

“I thought about the needs of the student and what it must take to deliberately achieve lower scores and started to dig a bit deeper,” said Link. “It turns out this student had no adult role models and needed significantly more support than ‘just a teacher’ in the classroom.”

Link is one of five school-level Teachers of the Year who are in the running for the district-level distinction. The teacher chosen as the 2022-2023 Richland One Teacher of the Year will qualify for consideration for the state title.

Dr. Shawn Washington, Dreher’s assistant principal of curriculum and instruction, said Link is the embodiment of what anyone would want as a colleague and teacher. Despite her workload as an Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry teacher, homebound instructor and robotics club sponsor, Washington said Link still goes the extra mile for her students.

“She is best described as dependable, honest, kind and committed to growing her students academically,” said Washington.

Dreher teacher Alyssa Stephens was an intern turned first-year teacher who was under Link’s tutelage. She credits Link with making her year practically stress-free.

“I have not had a struggle with lesson planning (or) student discipline, and it is all because of Elizabeth,” said Stephens. “She has been a constant support system, guide, resource center and role model.”

Link’s “Alexander Policy,” which allows students a pass on an assignment once a quarter, has garnered the attention of students and parents alike.

“I went to the classroom for the first time during Dreher’s Parent Open House,” said Kristy Thomason Ellenberg, parent of two of Link’s students. “She explained the ‘Alexander Policy’ (which) recognized that being a teenager can be hard sometimes for all the unexpected reasons, and like the children’s book character, sometimes (people) have a no good, horrible, very bad day.”

Ellenberg said Link is the reason her children and other students have experienced so many very good days in high school.

Though Link has managed to address some of the education issues that she’s uniquely wired to solve, her heart yearns to see change that will ensure equitable access to education by all students.

“I believe there are many fundamental causes for disparity in achievement scores between students in differing socioeconomic classes,” said Link.

The causes, in her estimation, are restricted access to early education opportunities and proximity to quality educational and educators.

“As students enter the public education system, there is an inherent discrepancy in experiences for students from various backgrounds,” said Link. “Closing the achievement gap between socioeconomic classes is important for providing equitable experiences for all students.”

Link said that issue may be her platform if she is chosen to serve as Richland One’s Teacher of the Year. The new Richland One Teacher of the Year will be announced May 27 during the district’s Celebration 2022 employee recognition event.