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Leah Carper of Guilford County Schools is North Carolina’s 2022 Teacher of the Year

Leah Carper, an English teacher at Northern Guilford High School in Guilford County was named the 2022 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year at a ceremony in Cary on Friday.

One of her goals as teacher of the year is going to be to advocate for becoming a teacher, she said in an interview after the announcement.

“I want people to know that being a teacher is exciting, it’s fun, it’s rewarding, and my hope is to be able to advocate so we can have more people who want to be in the classroom with our children,” she said.

The state has recognized “Teachers of the Year” since 1970, according to a press release from the state Department of Public Instruction. Carper was one of nine regional teachers of the year, all of whom were in contention for the North Carolina Teacher of the Year title. 

Here are the other regional teachers of the year:

  • West: Ryan Mitchell, Mills River Elementary (Henderson County Public Schools).
  • Northwest: Ashley Bandy, Newton-Conover High (Newton-Conover City Schools).
  • Southwest: Ashtyn Berry, W.R. Odell Elementary (Cabarrus County Schools). 
  • Sandhills: Elizabeth Santamour, East Hoke Middle (Hoke County Schools). 
  • North Central: Brian Link, East Chapel Hill High (Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools). 
  • Northeast: Clinton Todd, J.H. Rose High (Pitt County Schools). 
  • Southeast: Abbey Nobles, New Hanover High (New Hanover County Schools). 
  • Charter Schools: Keegan Storrs, Roxboro Community School. 

Carper has been teaching since 2006 when she started work at Western Guilford High School after graduating from UNC-Greensboro with a degree in English education, according to a press release. She also has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Queens University of Charlotte.

She said in her acceptance speech that she hopes to see character become more incorporated into the education of students who, she said, will all grow into adults no matter how different they are.

“They’re students of humanity, and they’re learning how to be good people, and they’re learning that in our classrooms every day,” she said.  

Before introducing Carper, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt spoke about the past few years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s not been a quick school year. It’s been a difficult school year. However I do believe that our best days are ahead of us, and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the journey that you all have been on,” she said to the regional teachers of the year. 

She went on to talk about how at this time last year, they were just getting back into classrooms and seeing students face-to-face for the first time in some cases.

“You were on the front lines of the pandemic in a way that very few were, and I include myself in that group,” she said.

During her speech, Carper thought back to many of the educators who influenced her, for example, by teaching her about being accepting of new people or appreciative of different cultures and countries. She even recalled a third grade teacher who bought her new shoelaces because she didn’t have any. All of these things, she said, cannot be measured on a standardized test.

“When it comes to teaching, I’m going to do what works for my students,” Carper said in her teacher of the year submission, according to the press release.

Carper will travel the state as an ambassador for teachers and will serve as an advisor on the State Board of Education for two years. 

She will also, according to a press release, “have the opportunity to attend a seminar at the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), receive a mobile device from Lenovo valued at approximately $1,600, an engraved vase, a cash award of $7,500, a trip to the National Teacher of the Year Conference and International Space Camp, a prize pack and opportunity to be honored during a football game from NC State Athletics, support from No Kid Hungry NC, a cash award of $1,000 from Bojangles and the opportunity to travel abroad through an endowment sponsored by Go Global NC.”

Watch the ceremony in the video below:

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.