Marlboro County School District Teacher of the Year Portia Clare has always believed she was born to be a teacher.
As a child, she would play teacher with her cousins and friends doing the things that her mom did with her at home.
"My mother influenced me more than anyone else," she said. "My mother was a teacher."
This belief and knowledge has stayed with her for 28 years in education.
Clare, a second-grade teacher at Bennettsville Primary School, has been in the district for four years.
She admitted to being surprised when she found she was named Teacher of the Year at BPS.
"It was very humbling that my colleagues would choose me," Clare said. "I didn't even know I was on the ballot. It was very unexpected."
Being named District Teacher of the Year in August was even more of a surprise for her.
She said when her name was called, she just put her head in her lap.
"I just couldn't believe my name had been called. I thought 'oh wow,' 'oh Lord,' and 'wait I still have to get up,'" Clare said with a laugh. "It is just very humbling to be selected when you are doing something that you love to do."
She has always felt that teaching is the reason she exists.
"I think you have to have a heart for children," Clare said. "You have to look at that child and see that the child is capable and has possibilities. All children have a story."
But years ago, she wanted to work with children and thought she would be a pediatrician. Later, she decided to become an attorney.
It took an outing during college with some young boys to show her where her heart was.
She taught one of them how to bowl and seeing the look on his face when he got it made her question what she was doing.
"I realized I wanted to teach," Clare said.
After talking with her parents and getting their blessing, it was all she needed to hear. She never looked back.
Clare has taught grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Her preference has always been primary school.
Born in Bennettsville, she was raised in the Bahamas. Her family moved frequently due to her father's job. She has lived in various cities from Chicago to New York.
She has always understood the importance of establishing a relationship with students on the first day because she wants them to be comfortable in the classroom with not only her but their classmates.
"It is about them knowing it is a safe place where they will learn a lot," she said.
And even at a young age, the use of technology is important.
"It is preparing them for what will be everywhere in the future," she said. "If we are preparing them to be college and career ready, we need to expose them to technology."
For her, learning is important because it exposes students to possibilities.
In addition to teaching academics, Clare knows she is building character.
"To me, character is more important than your grades," she said. "Character is what brings you favor. Character is what brings promotion."
As a primary teacher, Clare understands the importance of the role in building a foundation.
"Primary grades are essential," she said. "You cannot do what needs to be done in the 12th grade unless you have this foundation."
For Clare and other teachers, everything builds on the basics--reading, writing, and math.
"Reading is everywhere and in every subject," she said. "Then comprehension is in every subject. If there is a challenge here, there is going to be a challenge up the road."
In Clare's classroom over her door is a sign that says "Oh, the Places You Go!" from Dr. Seuss.
The sign shows her belief that children should never believe they can't do something.
"They have to know that they can do anything they want to do," she said. "The only limitations are the limitations they put on themselves."