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Teaching on the peanut field

National Teacher Appreciation Week is May 2-6, 2016. EdNC extends our thanks to teachers all across North Carolina. You are our everyday heroes.

In 2001, KIPP Gaston was built on a peanut field. Since then, the Pride, as they refer to themselves, has been pushing the limits of what is possible for students, always monitoring and adjusting how they teach to continuously raise the bar. Recently, Tammi Sutton, the executive director, asked some of her teachers:

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Justin Edwards graduated from KIPP Gaston and now teaches technology.

This is home for me. I wanted to give back to the community. I would not trade it for anything.

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Lydia Freeman teaches English in the sixth grade.

I was impressed by the team effort that I saw here. I am passionate about the kids in this community. And I think education is the most effective way to help kids have better opportunities in life.

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Geof Muma teaches AP US Government.

Every kid matters here.

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Flora Pitchford has been teaching for 47 years. At KIPP Gaston, she teaches biology. She grew up right down the road from the school.

I can push my students and the expectations are high that all students can be successful if they are given the time and you push them to get to that point. I like the idea that I can work with my students as long as they need me to work with them — on the weekends, at night. They can call me. They can text me. I am always available.

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Ryan Brock teaches Kindergarten.

Today I teach because of the injustice that is happening in the world, how prevalent it always has been, and is currently still. I think by starting in Kindergarten in our primary school, I have the opportunity to empower my kids with the tools that they need to go out and dismantle the things that need to be dismantled and build the things that need to be built so when the kids grow up and they have kids it will be a better place. So while the day to day of Kindergarten is boogers and snot, I think it is the best place to be because we are truly changing kids from the age of five and giving them what they need to give other kids a fairer life.

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Abony Galbreath teaches third grade. She grew up in Robeson County, and she formerly taught in South Korea.

I talked to my niece, and she said, “Auntie, you are doing such great things teaching in Asia. Why don’t you come home and teach?” And it made me ask myself why am I not home? Why am I not doing this work in my own backyard? My community is one of those places where people leave, and they never come back. It’s a place to escape, and you don’t want to be associated with it. And I didn’t want for my nieces and nephews and I don’t want for Pride members to ever feel like there is nothing of value in their community. Because they are the thing of value.

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Sutton, a founder of KIPP Gaston and now the executive director, started out in the classroom.

The most exciting, rejuvenating part of our work is the time spent with the kids. They have a life sentence with us. These are not empty promises. I love them. I want to be part of their lives.

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In this physics class, Keith Starr is teaching 11th and 12th grade students about echolocation:

For Sutton and the KIPP Gaston Pride, she says, “the goal is to create engaging classrooms where students want to learn and be there.”

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.