PENDLETON --- Mary Geren, an instructor in Tri-County Technical College's English department, was honored May 9 with the highest award presented to the faculty.  She received the Presidential Medallion for Instructional Excellence at the College's spring commencement.

          Dr. Ronnie L. Booth, president, presented the medallion to the Anderson resident.  The medallion is presented each year to the instructor who has contributed the most during the academic year to the profession of teaching, to the development of the College and to the students.

Geren joined Tri-County in 2009 and teaches English on the Pendleton and Anderson campuses.

"It has been the honor of my life to give back to an institution that has given so much to me. As a first-generation college graduate and the first in my family to graduate from high school, graduates, I am here to tell you that no dream is too big. You can do this," Geren said upon receiving the award.

"I, too, was a student at Tri-County Technical College, which is when my love for community college fully blossomed, and I decided I would like to teach at a 'college like that one day.' Little did I know, I would return to TCTC less than 10 years later to do just that," she said.

"My students inspire me every day to get up and keep fighting for all children to have the opportunities I had to succeed. Education literally saved my life. As the youngest in a family of seven, I knew education was the catalyst that would propel me upward, out of poverty. I will forever be thankful to the countless teachers who encouraged me along the way. The least I can do is the same for my students. I am truly honored and humbled by this recognition."    

"Mary's dedication to engaging students in service learning, providing students with learning experiences beyond the classroom and sharing her positivity with the college community illustrates her commitment to creating a positive educational experience," Dr. Amoena Norcross, title III activity director at the College, wrote in her nomination letter.  "She consistently prioritizes student learning and engagement.  She is never satisfied with the status quo when it comes to helping her students succeed academically, as well as providing her students with experiences outside the classroom."

Geren regularly engages students in numerous service learning opportunities, including showcasing the College's Rosenwald School reproduction on the Anderson Campus to Anderson School District Five elementary students, as well as through partnerships with the United Way, Anderson Interfaith Ministries, New Foundations Home for Children and the Foothills Alliance. 

Several years ago Geren began teaching the Composition and Community Connect class (English 101) with a service learning theme.

No one in the class, many of them Anderson County natives, had ever heard of the Rosenwald Schools when fall semester began.  But just several months later, a team of students, who chose to study and profile the Rosenwald Schools as the group's service learning project, was educating third graders from Calhoun Academy of the Arts about the one-room school houses that were built in the early twentieth century for the education of African Americans.  The Anderson Campus is the site of the Nation's only full-scale reproduction of a one-teacher Rosenwald School.

During their presentations, students said these projects ignited their interest in volunteerism and engaging with the community to make it a better place.

For years Geren, who recently announced her bid for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District, has served as faculty advisor to the Student Democrats. Last year the TCTC Student Democrats and TCTC Student Republicans merged and are now known as TCTC Association of Political Scientists (TAPS).   

In 2012 she was chosen to serve as a national delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

One of the events she helps to organize is the annual trip to Washington, DC, when she and other instructors take a group of student leaders to the Nation's Capital.  The goal of the trip is to learn about U.S. history, our government, and to honor our veterans.  The group tours the White House and meets with the South Carolina members of Congress.   They have toured Monticello, the Pentagon, WWII memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial (also called the Iwo Jima Memorial), Arlington National Cemetery, and various museums.

Geren also coordinates students' participation in philanthropic activities, such as serving the homeless at a local soup kitchen and walking with a team to raise funds for a free medical clinic in the Anderson area. 

She engages with her colleagues in professional development activities, often sharing strategies that improve student learning.  She and a co-worker co-presented their work on service learning at the 2017 Two-Year College English Association - Southeast Conference 

Prior to joining Tri-County, Geren was a lecturer for Clemson University's English Department.  She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English from Clemson, where she graduated summa cum laude and in the top five percent of her class.  She was the recipient of an Abney Foundation scholarship and was nominated for the Excellence in Teaching Award at Clemson in 2005.      

She has been a member and volunteer of NewSpring Church for 14 years. She is also a member of the Anderson Chamber of Commerce and serves on the board of Foothills Alliance.  She serves as the executive committeewoman for the Anderson County Democratic Party and co-chairs the Anderson chapter of SC Democrats Care.

She has lived in Anderson with her husband, Shawn, for 19 years. They have a daughter, Madilyn, 11, and a son, Kenan, a junior at the University of South Carolina.