FORT JACKSON, S.C. (Feb. 27, 2014) -- The two Fort Jackson schools have selected their 2014-2015 teachers of the year.

Amy Henderson, second grade teacher at Pierce Terrace Elementary School, and Wilhemina McKinney, a sixth grade teacher at C.C. Pinckney Elementary School, were selected for the coming school year's honors.

McKinney is a relative newcomer to Fort Jackson, having moved here more than a year ago from Washington, where she worked for Department of Defense Education Activity's Education Directorate for 15 years.

"The award means I get to be the voice for the teachers at this school," she said. "It means a lot to me that I'm able to bring back what I've learned from around the world, and couple it with experiences of these teachers and our training. I really get to represent what all of us do."

Her teaching career began in El Paso, Texas, in 1977. As a military spouse, she's had the opportunity to teach around the world. There was a short break between her college graduation and the start of her teaching career, though.

"I graduated from Florida A&M on a Friday, and the following Monday I was landing in Frankfurt, Germany, to join my husband," she said. "At the time, DoDEA would not hire you unless you had two years of experience as a teacher. During that time I managed a daycare center and was a bank teller for American Express in Germany."

Originally, McKinney said she was an "aspiring opera singer."

"That was my major in college," she said. "As a result of being a military spouse, I've taught every grade in music from K through 12, and every classroom grade from second to eighth. I've taught at 13 different schools."

Her favorite grade is the sixth, she said.

"They're like the seniors of elementary school, but the babies for middle school," McKinney said. "It's like pulling together everything they've learned in elementary school, and preparing them for middle and high school."

McKinney said she and her husband moved to South Carolina because C.C. Pinckney Elementary School gave her the opportunity to return to the classroom.

"I'm glad to be here," she said. "I wanted to go back to being 'boots on the ground,' as the Soldiers say. I'm so glad to be here at C.C. Pinckney with students whose parents have stressful and unique jobs."

Henderson, a second grade teacher at Pierce Terrace Elementary, has been teaching for 24 years, the last 15 of which have been at Fort Jackson.

"My husband and I are from South Carolina," she said. "We came back here to be closer to home."

Henderson has taught pre-kindergarten, fourth grade and second grade on post, a stint that's included classrooms at C.C. Pinckney, Pierce Terrace and the now-defunct Hood Street School.

She said she prefers working with younger students because they are the most excited about learning.

"They still want to know," she said. "Sometimes, in the older grade levels, the kids have lost their enthusiasm for learning along the way. I find, especially with the second grade, they have no pre-determined convictions ... they're not prejudiced, they don't have attitudes about rank, they just want to come to school to be with their friends."

Henderson said the Teacher of the Year honor is validation for the work she's done.

"Since I've moved to second grade, I feel like I've really found my niche," she said. "I feel like I've really excelled in the second grade, more so than in the other grade levels."

Next year, Henderson will be relocating to C.C. Pinckney.

"The second grade is moving up to C.C. Pinckney," said Pierce Terrace Principal Tammy Shadd. "We have reached our maximum capacity here at Pierce Terrace. Our second grade is growing and we need more space, so they're moving up to C.C. Pinckney. They have a great deal more space than we do. We're really sad to lose second grade, but we have to do what's best for students first."

The move means both teachers of the year will be working under the same roof in the coming school year. Because the honor means they will have to represent the needs of the two schools, Henderson said the next year will be a challenge.

"I don't know how we're going to handle it," she said. "We're in a unique situation. There's going to be two teachers of the year (at C.C. Pinckney) in the fall."