Special for T&D
Three faculty and staff members were honored as Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College Educators of the Year and recognized at the South Carolina Technical Education Association’s annual conference Feb. 17-19 in Myrtle Beach.
Bookstore manager Kathy Hightower is the outstanding administrator; The English instructor, Dr. Tamara Miles, is an outstanding faculty member; and Physical Plant Administrative Assistant Connie Gleaton is the Outstanding Personnel Honoree.
SCTEA is a professional association of technical education personnel and others interested in post-secondary technical education.
Hightower has worked at the college for 43 years. She began her career at OCtech on August 1, 1978, as a bookstore assistant, then became a manager.
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“Working at OCtech has been my calling in life,” she said. “Faculty and staff become your extended family, not just your colleagues.”
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Hightower is part of the College Foundation Support Team and is a member of the WHO committee, which recognizes outstanding employees. She also serves on the Board of the South Carolina Association of College Stores and has been recognized for her service to the association.
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Hightower is an active member of St. George’s Baptist Church, where she serves as Sunday School principal, Sunday preschool teacher, choir member, and helps with the College’s student ministry program. She was recognized by the South Carolina Baptist Convention for her outstanding service as a church clerk.
She was named Educator of the Year in 2019 and 2020.
“At our fall faculty and staff convocation, the speaker encouraged us to get to know our students,” said Hightower. “Over the years, I’ve found this to be a way to be part of their journey at OCtech. Even though I don’t teach in the classroom, I feel like I’m contributing to their educational goals by showing them kindness. and encouraging them when they struggle with school, work, family, and financial issues.
“When a student stops by the bookstore just to say ‘thank you,’ I’m glad to know that I touched their life,” she said.
Since joining the faculty of OCtech in 2004, Miles has taught all levels of academic English, as well as humanities and academic skills courses. She was the coordinator of the college’s Presidential Scholars Program and an advisor to OCtech’s Alpha Alpha Delta Chapter of International Honor Society Phi Theta Kappa.
Under his leadership, the PTK chapter sponsored a number of community and college service projects regionally and internationally. In the fall of 2021, the organization collected items for dozens of “blessing bags” for homeless children and donated them to Samaritan House in Orangeburg. She received the Horizon Award for Distinguished Advisor from PTK, and the chapter earned a five-star rating for three consecutive years, in addition to numerous individual and chapter recognitions and achievements.
Miles serves on the Carolinas Area Advisory Board of PTK and the Board of Directors of the Poetry Society of South Carolina. She is a trained InsideTrack coach, has facilitated online counseling workshops, and served as vice chair of the college’s faculty council. His poetry, essays, reviews, flash fiction, memoirs, and other writings have appeared in various journals and anthologies.
“Since joining the faculty at OCtech, I have been inspired by the many women in leadership positions and hoped to follow their example,” said Miles, who earned a doctorate in leadership in higher education from Walden University in 2020. “I have had the opportunity to serve the college in a variety of meaningful ways, and my efforts have been recognized and appreciated.
Gleaton began working at the college in 1993, first as a work-study in the bookstore, then full-time in financial aid and student services before moving into her current administrative role with the physical plant of the college in 1998.
“Throughout my years at OCtech, I got married, had a kid, lost loved ones, and then that kid grew up and got married,” she said. “During all of these life events, my work family has been there.”
This is the second time Gleaton has been named Educator of the Year. She is also the recipient of an OCtech WHO award.
Gleaton served on the college’s Staff Council for more than 20 years and was a member of the Orangeburg-Calhoun Chapter of the International Associate of Administrative Professionals, serving in various leadership roles for both. She also volunteers and participates in college events throughout the year, and has assisted student services with phone outreach initiatives to encourage students on their OCtech journey.
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“When I think of OCtech, it’s not just my workplace – it’s my home away from home with my extended family,” Gleaton said.