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Citadel News Service
15 Nov 2010

Great Falls educator named SC Spanish Teacher of the Year

Darlene S. Whitaker of Great Falls High School is the 2010 South Carolina Spanish Teacher of the Year, an annual award presented by The Citadel's Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society.

Whitaker was among three finalists for the award, which was presented for the 6th consecutive year on Nov. 11 to recognize outstanding Spanish teachers in K-12 schools across the Palmetto State. Past winners have come from schools in Sumter, Charleston, Gaffney and Greenville. 

Mark P. Del Mastro, founder of the South Carolina Spanish Teacher of the Year program, poses with (left to right) Darlene S. Whitaker, the 2010 S.C. Spanish Teacher of the Year, and finalists Zuleika S. Hernández and Wendy R. Girgan.

Judges selected Whitaker for her impressive and diverse teaching accomplishments in and outside of her school as well as for her outstanding role in disseminating the Hispanic language and culture in South Carolina, said Dr. Mark P. Del Mastro, chairman and professor of Hispanic Studies at the College of Charleston and founding director of the awards program.

Del Mastro, on behalf of The Citadel's Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, presented the winner with a $500 award and a plaque. The runners up, Wendy R. Girgan of Pinewood Preparatory School in Summerville and Zuleika S. Hernández of Spring Valley High School in Columbia were recognized for their achievements and also received plaques during the evening awards ceremony. All three finalists received a one-night stay for two and breakfast the morning following the ceremony courtesy of the Francis Marion Hotel in downtown Charleston.

Teachers were selected from nominees from across the state and were judged on innovation in teaching, initiative in Spanish curriculum development, extra-curricular activities related to teaching and professional development.

Whitaker has been teaching at Great Falls for 13 years, where she was named the school’s Teacher of the Year in 2008 and District Teacher of the Year in Chester County in 2001. She currently serves as a mentor in both the Teachers Mentoring Teachers Program and the Senior Project. With funding she successfully solicited from the J. Marion Sims Foundation, she established a “Caribbean Nights” festival to showcase artisans and dance instructors while enlightening her students with knowledge of Caribbean culture. Whitaker earned her B.A. in Spanish from UNC-Charlotte and her teacher certification in Spanish from the University of Montana-Missoula.

A teacher at Pinewood Preparatory since 1991, Girgan is praised by her peers for her strong advocacy and efforts developing K-12 foreign language curriculum during her role as Chair of the school’s Modern and Classical Languages department from 2000-07. Her excellent standards in teaching earned her selection as a South Carolina Independent School Association Master Teacher in 2005. Currently she is a Board Member of the Network of Complementary Schools. Girgan is a graduate of the College of Charleston and she earned her M.Ed. at The Citadel.

Since 2003, Hernández has taught at Spring Valley High where she is widely recognized for her impressive integration of technology in the language classroom—she is the IT Teacher for World Languages—and she has generously mentored her colleagues both locally and throughout her school district accordingly. Her initiative is also evinced in her founding of the school’s Spanish dance club that has performed at local Hispanic community activities. She earned her B.A. in Spanish and International Trade at Clemson University and her M.Ed. at Cambridge College in Massachusetts.

Beginning in 2011, Sigma Delta Pi’s South Carolina Spanish Teacher of the Year Program will be co-sponsored by the College of Charleston and The Citadel. For more information about the South Carolina Spanish Teacher of the Year program, visit the web site or contact the founding director, Mark P. Del Mastro. Nomination information for the 2011 contest will be available online in February.

For more information about the South Carolina Spanish Teacher of the Year award, contact Mark P. Del Mastro at 843-953-6748 or email him at

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