Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Department of Education annouced Wednesday that Darleen Sutton has been awarded the teacher of the year.

Sutton teaches first grade at Pickens Elementary School in Pickens county and has been a teacher for 20 years.

"I'm passionate about teaching my students and I really want them to be successful," said Sutton. "I believe that anything I'm able to do, anyway I'm able to help them, is through the grace of God.

Sutton says a family member was the reason she stepped into the classroom 20 years ago.

"I have a poppa,a dear sweet poppa,and my poppa was unable to read because of my life circumstances and I didn't want other children to suffer that same fate," said Sutton.

As part of her award, Sutton will receive a $25,000 check and a new BMW X3.

She'll spend next school year out of the classroom traveling the state to share with other teachers and schools what she has learned over her teaching career.

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