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Natalia Mejia, a teacher at CC Griffin STEM Middle School in Cabarrus County Schools, was named the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) 2023 Empower NC Beginning Teacher of the Year (BTOY) last night, according to a press release.
Mejia teaches seventh and eighth grade students, and a video produced for the event said she believes students will not learn from someone they do not respect, trust, and love.
Dr. Jim Causby, NCCAT BTOY steering committee chair, presented the award, noting that 100% of Mejia’s students experienced growth.
“A student shared this,” he said. “She has amazing teaching skills, such as collaboration, empathy, and integrity. The love, attention, and acceptance she gives to every single one of her students is really special.”
Mejia has worked to increase the representation of Latinx students on student council.
In her remarks, Mejia thanked her principal, Yolanda Blakeney, for her support. When Mejia takes ideas to Blakeney, she said the response is always, “Go for it, girl!”
Thinking about her why “settled the background noise” of being a finalist for Mejia.
“This week has reminded me of my why I became a teacher,” she said. “This whole week has been about my love for them, my students. It’s because they are my passion, often giving me the reason to laugh and smile, my chosen family, my community, and why I lift my voice.”
“Education is in desperate need of change and revolution,” Mejia said, “and I can only hope I will be part of it.”
NCCAT Executive Director Brock Womble said, “Educators like Ms. Mejia embody what it means to be a teacher. Not only is she committed to teaching — she inspires her students to learn.”
The runner-up is Kirby Forbes a teacher at Lee County High School in Lee County Schools. An administrator said Forbes breaks down the material to the smallest detail and then helps students build it back up so they gain complete understanding, according to the press release.
Finalists spend the week at NCCAT.
A huge shout out to all of the finalists. Thank you for your leadership.
The finalists for the 2023 NCCAT North Carolina Beginning Teachers of the Year include:
Alexis Allred, Jackson County
Madison (Maddie) Baker, Catawba County
Ratasha Benton-Manley, Northampton County
Christian Boletchek, Roanoke Rapids
Izabella Botello, Iredell-Statesville
Karen Cardillo, Carolina Charter Academy
Jerico Carrillo, Guilford County
Katelyn Clarke, Pitt County
Breeana (Bree) Clayton, Henderson County
Jamie Conley, Brevard Academy
Kbria Filali, Pender County
Hannah Fitta, New Hanover
Kirby Forbes, Lee County
Samantha Fortner, Mitchell County
Kenna Gautier, Clinton City Schools
Emily Giardina, Chapel Hill Carrboro
Ariana Hunter, Rutherford County
Goodin Huss, Hoke County
Tonya McGill, Cumberland County
Natalia Mejia, Cabarrus County
Sabrina Moore, Mount Airy City
Gabe Patton, Johnston County
Darbie Rash, Ashe County
Nancy (Beth) Rose, Wayne County
Maria Sutton, Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies (NEAAT)
Amber White, Rowan Salisbury
Carly Wright, Thomasville City Schools
You can watch the ceremony here: