Teacher of the Month overcomes personal challenges to inspire others

LAKE WACCAMAW, NC (WWAY) — Austin Andrews, an exceptional children’s teacher at East Columbus High School, has been named the WWAY Teacher of the Month for his exceptional dedication and impact on his students.

The surprise announcement took place inside East Columbus Junior and Senior High School, where a group of students gathered to celebrate Mr. Andrews’ accomplishment.

Mr. Andrews serves students with a range of disabilities, including Down syndrome, DeMorsier syndrome, genetic disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and severe autism.

While his exceptional children (EC) students were unable to participate in the story, Andrews’ impact extends beyond the classroom. He also coaches the JV Boys Basketball team and mentors students involved in Middle School Girls’ Soccer.

Drawing from his personal experiences, Andrews strives to connect with his students and guide them through their challenges.

“I try to do my very best to mentor and help these kids, understand that hey, I was in your shoes once,” he said.

Andrews can empathize with his students on a deep level, as he has his own learning disabilities, including autism and a speech impediment with a stutter. Despite facing his own challenges, he pursued higher education and uses his journey to inspire his students.

“I got two undergrads at the University of Mount Olive, went and got a Masters at Mount Olive, and now I’m getting my second Masters at UNC Pembroke for special education,” Andrews shared.

His passion for working with special needs students is rooted in a multi-generational commitment. Both his mother and grandmother were closely involved in working with students with special needs. Andrews acknowledged that although it may not have been the path he initially envisioned, it is the path he was meant to be on.

“I think God knew where he wanted me to be and he said, ‘your God-given talent is to impact kids. I never thought I would be here, but I am truthfully blessed and thankful that I am,” Andrews said.

The WWAY Teacher of the Month recognition is sponsored by Fulford Heating and Cooling and Hamilton Realty Group. The chosen winner receives a $400 gift card as a token of appreciation for their remarkable contributions to the community. You can nominate a teacher here. 

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