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NC Teacher of the Year selected as finalist for National Teacher of the Year

Maureen Stover, the 2020 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year, has been selected by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) as one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award. Every year, CCSSO selects one teacher from the state Teachers of the Year to serve as the National Teacher of the Year.

“It’s a singular role for an educator who has demonstrated excellence in the classroom, an exceptional commitment to their students and profession and skills in public speaking and advocacy,” their website reads.

Prior to being named the North Carolina Teacher of the Year (NCTOY) in July 2020, Stover taught science at Cumberland International Early College High School in Cumberland County Schools. As NCTOY, Stover said her priorities were to promote social and emotional learning and equity in education.

“As an educator, I don’t see problems, but rather I see opportunities for solutions,” Stover said during her acceptance of the award. “I am humbled to be a teacher leader as we continue to find creative ways to improve the educational opportunities for every child in North Carolina regardless of zip code.”

Stover’s path to the classroom is somewhat unusual. When I met Stover in August 2020, she told me her dream was to join the U.S. Air Force and become a pilot, but her eyesight prevented her from doing that. Instead, she joined the Air Force as an intelligence officer, where she served for several years and met her husband.

Stover left the Air Force and started teaching in Florida through the federal Troops to Teachers program. After relocating to California and working as an educational consultant for the National Science Teaching Association, Stover and her husband moved to Fayetteville, and Stover began teaching at Cumberland International Early College High School.

As a teacher, Stover has found her ikigai, a Japanese term for one’s purpose in life. “Teaching is my ikigai,” she told me.

“My ikigai is helping my students develop academically, socially and emotionally as they transition from adolescence into adulthood,” she wrote in her NCTOY submission. “I have found that one of the most important parts of being a teacher is the relationships I form with my students.”

Hear from Stover about her journey to the classroom, teaching during the pandemic, and more in this Tar Heel Teachers at Home interview:

If selected as the National Teacher of the Year, Stover will work full-time for a year to “shine a light on the vital role of teachers in this country.” See all past National Teachers of the Year here.

Molly Osborne Urquhart

Molly Osborne is the vice president and director of operations for EducationNC.