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Here’s what gave educators hope this past school year

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During the 2020-2021 school year, we visited 44 school districts in North Carolina. During our visits, we talked to educators about what gave them hope this year. In partnership with the Public School Forum of North Carolina, we produced weekly moments of hope, sharing the stories of educators across our state.

Here is our most recent moment of hope, featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who visited Johnson C. Smith University and Paw Creek Elementary School in Charlotte on July 12.

You can find the moments of hope from the past year in chronological order below. Educators, if you are interested in participating in our moment of hope series this year, please email with your name and school.

Kisha Clemmons

Have you met principal Kisha Clemmons? She shares a moment that made her smile — when she could “see all of our hard work coming to life.” Clemmons is the principal of Shuford Elementary School and was the 2020 Wells Fargo North Carolina Principal of the Year. Listen to the moment here.

Steve Clarke

The Onslow Virtual School (OVS) was just an idea in June 2020. Now, it’s a fully functioning virtual school serving over 4,900 K-12 students in Onslow County Schools. OVS Principal Steve Clarke shares what this means for the community. Listen to the moment here.

Sara Levine

Have you ever heard of students “riding the roller coaster”? One Horton’s Creek Elementary School assistant teacher shares how she’s engaging her kindergarten students during remote learning. Listen to the moment here.

Steven Gupton

How are teachers connecting with students who aren’t showing up to virtual classes? Steven Gupton of Durham Public Schools shares one way he’s getting students back on track. Listen to the moment here.

Porchia Russell

“I have the greatest job in the land,” said Porchia Russell of Rockingham Community College. Tune in to this moment of hope to hear why. Listen to the moment here.

Sean Parrish

Sean Parrish has been teaching visual arts at Brevard High School for 28 years. He’s the school’s only Black educator. What made him stay? Hear why in this moment of hope.

Korick Sisomphone

Korick Sisomphone, referred to as Mr. S by his students, saw vlogging and live streaming as an opportunity to transform his virtual classroom. Listen to the moment here.

Emily Golightly

After all the time students have spent on screens this year, one librarian came up with an idea to get kids moving while learning. Listen to Emily Golightly share her idea for the “read and ride” project in this moment of hope. Listen here.

Barry Williams

The Saunders Science Scholars Program in Gates County helps middle school students and their families explore STEM. It was made possible by three alumni. Listen to Superintendent Barry Williams explain in this moment of hope. Listen here.

David Stegall

“We’re all in this together and we must trust one another.” In this moment of hope, David Stegall, deputy superintendent of innovation at the state Department of Public Instruction, shares a message for educators on Thanksgiving. Listen to the moment here.

Chad Beasley

How does Sparta School utilize the “Leader in Me” model to address the whole child? In this week’s moment of hope, Superintendent Chad Beasley of Alleghany County Schools shares a snapshot of how this model has improved the social-emotional well-being of students and faculty. Listen here.

Donnell Cannon

Educators have risen to meet the moment time and time again this year. As we headed into the holiday season, Principal Donnell Cannon reminded us to rest and take care of ourselves. Listen to his message here.

Kate Vita

Ms. Vita’s second grade class has a special song to remember the three W’s of school safety during the pandemic: wear, wait, and wash. Listen here.

Matt Bristow-Smith

“Children matter.” Principal Matt Bristow-Smith discusses the importance of school support staff in this moment of hope. Listen to the moment here.

Kayce Smith

Digital learning has been tough for teachers, students, and families. One school district held a series of engagement nights to connect with their most disengaged students and families. Hear how they did it in this moment of hope. Listen here.

Maureen Stover

In this moment of hope, Maureen Stover, 2020 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year, shares a message to teachers. Listen and share with a teacher you appreciate in your life. You can listen to the moment here.

Tonya Treadway

The 100th day of school is an exciting day for many students and teachers across North Carolina. Hear how one school, Pisgah Forest Elementary School, celebrated in this moment of hope. Listen here.

Jermaine White

Assistant Superintendent Jermaine White of Harnett County Schools shares some encouragement to all educators in this moment of hope. Listen here.

Lauren Lampron

Students are back in the building at Edgecombe County Schools. Principal Lauren Lampron shares her moment of hope here.

Kelly Poquette

Music class can be powerful for students, according to Kelly Poquette. In this moment of hope, she shares how music can teach empathy and serve as both “a mirror and a window” for students. Listen here.

Jen Hawkins

Students have shown teachers great compassion this year, and it’s been moving for this assistant principal to witness. Listen to her moment of hope here.

Luis Perez

There isn’t just one moment of hope that has gotten Luis Perez through the last year. In this moment of hope he shares several moments and the power of finding hope daily at school. Listen here.

Valentina Byrd

“If you had the power to change one thing, what would it be?” This is the question social studies teacher Valentina Byrd of Durham Public Schools asked her students one morning. Their responses surprised and impressed her. Listen to her moment of hope here.

Maggie Murphy

“My hope is in our people,” shares Maggie Murphy in this moment of hope. Listen to how this Alleghany County School’s teacher is inspired by her community daily. Listen here.

Janice Withers

“Their passion for learning has been a constant.” From her to students to the PTSA, hear how Janice Withers found hope in her community in this moment of hope. Listen here.

Darryl Bradshaw

In this moment of hope, Darryl Bradshaw shares how the Dream Program from Durham Public Schools and UNC School of Education has been a bright spot for him this year. Listen to the moment here.

Tonya Smith

What do Langston Hughes and Hildegard von Bingen have in common? Find out how Tonya Smith reimagined teaching the Renaissance to her class in this moment of hope. Listen here.

Toiya Dunbar

“Kids are actually pretty resilient,” said Toiya Dunbar. As a teacher for nearly two decades, she shares how her students surprised her this year. Listen here.

Jenny O’Meara

“We are different people because we have kids in person again,” said Jenny O’Meara. In this moment of hope she shares how the anchor of “love first” has transformed her school’s experience of education. Listen here.

Jeanie Owens

“As teachers, we went above and beyond.” Jeanie Owens, Northeast Regional Teacher of the Year from Ocracoke School, celebrates the extraordinary efforts teachers made during the past school year to help their students in this special Teacher Appreciation Week message. Listen here.

Alicia Fallaw

“Teachers are resilient.” Hear Surry County Schools’ 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year Alicia Fallaw share how hope got her and her students through this school year. Listen here.

Eric Davis

As this extraordinary school year comes to a close, Eric Davis, chair of the State Board of Education, says thank you to everyone who worked day in and day out to support students. Listen here.

Are you interested in participating in our moment of hope series this year? If so, please email with your name and school.

Alli Lindenberg

Alli Lindenberg is an executive fellow for EducationNC.