News Releases

Greenwood Educator Established Scholarship in Honor of First Grade Teacher Who Helped Many

August 31, 2016

Long-time Greenwood educator and Lander University alumnus Gene Wood has established a scholarship at his alma mater in honor of Rebecca McDonald, his first grade teacher whom he credits for inspiring his 33-year career in Greenwood County schools.

“I always wanted to give back to Lander but thought that establishing a scholarship would cost well into the thousands of dollars. After recently joining Lander’s Alumni Board, however, I found that was far from accurate,” Wood said. “The decision to name the scholarship in honor of Mrs. McDonald was an easy one because, as a teacher, she’s had such a profound impact on many people in Greenwood County and beyond.”

Wood credits Mrs. McDonald with providing him the skill-set to read and write as well as the joy found in learning.

“There was no kindergarten in those days, so first grade was our first exposure to school,” recalled Wood. “When I and nearly 30 other students began first grade at Merrywood Elementary, I knew my letters and numbers, but did not know how to read. Mrs. McDonald introduced us to the method of learning to read by focusing on phonics.”

One of the primary building blocks for learning to read, phonics focuses on the understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds. Without a proper understanding of phonics, learning to read can be near impossible.

Teacher’s Instruction Leads to 33-Year Career in Education
“Mrs. McDonald is the reason I became an educator,” said Wood. “The care she showed her students and the effectiveness of her techniques had a profound effect on my life.”

After eventually earning his degree from Lander, Wood served as special education teacher and counselor for a host of area schools, including Brewer Middle, J.V. Martin Junior High, Northside Junior High, Gray Court Owings and Ware Shoals Middle. He currently serves as a counselor at Ninety Six Primary and Edgewood Middle School.

“In the teaching field, there are always new methods being introduced, and that’s fine. But if I have a student who continues to struggle, I know that I can rely upon techniques Mrs. McDonald introduced to me all those years ago. Those methods are tried and true,” Wood said.

Rebecca McDonald Learns About Scholarship in Her Honor
A member of the Lander Class of 1964, Rebecca McDonald taught first and second grades in Greenwood County for 31 years. Her former students have gone on to a host of remarkable professions, including one who serves as a judge and others who, like Wood, were inspired to pursue education careers themselves.

“When I first found out about the scholarship Gene had so kindly established, I immediately called my two children and told them, ‘Your mother is soaring!’, said Mrs. McDonald. “I also told them that if you can’t think of anything to buy for me for Christmas, just be sure to give to this scholarship.”

Details of the Scholarship
The Rebecca McDonald Education Scholarship at Lander is intended for a freshman majoring in education at Lander. Based primarily on merit, the scholarship requires a grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 or better.

To contribute to the scholarship – or to get information about establishing a scholarship – contact Lander’s Office of University Advancement by calling (864) 388-8350 or you can reach out via email.

Gene Wood_Rebecca McDonald_web

Longtime Greenwood educator Gene Wood (left) recently established a scholarship in honor of his first grade teacher and fellow Lander graduate Rebecca McDonald.

The two are holding the Lander yearbook from 1964, the year of Mrs. McDonald’s graduation.

The Rebecca McDonald Education Scholarship is intended to help freshman education majors at Lander.