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Perspective | Regional teachers of the year jump for a cause

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am the 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year. I lead an amazing group of regional teachers of the year who span all of North Carolina, from the coast of New Hanover county to the farthest tip of Cherokee county. We are each on our own unique journeys as educational leaders, and we unite together to form one powerful voice. Embedded in our voice is the collective belief that our teachers and our schools are transformative in the reach of our students and communities. We believe in our schools. We believe in our teachers. Most importantly, we believe in the beautiful diversity of the students of our state.

On Friday, August 9, our teacher of the year team stepped outside of our comfort zone to use our voice during our Jump for a Cause campaign. The Golden Knights invited our team to jump with them, and as a team, we wanted to make this jump count for something. We each decided to highlight an educational cause that we feel passionate about, using our voice to advance in our role as Teacher of the Year. Leading up to the big jump, we pushed our causes out on our social media platforms to help raise awareness of these issues that matter in the realm of public education.

Courtesy of Mariah Morris

Shiela Patterson, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Piedmont-Triad Teacher of the Year; Laura Wilkes, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Northwest Teacher of the Year; and Caesar Campana, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Western Region Teacher of the Year used  their voices to advance support for teacher recruitment, beginning teacher support, and teacher empowerment. Brooks furthered her voice to show support for the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program. Her Jump for a Cause post about the Teaching Fellows program sparked an online testimony from Teaching Fellows alumni across the state who proudly support the Teaching Fellows program.

Kate Culbreth, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Southwest Region Teacher of the Year; Christy Howe, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Southeast Region Teacher of the Year; and Katie Eddings, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Central Region Teacher of the Year; all used their voices to speak on behalf of nonprofits and movements that speak to the importance of educating the whole child in our schools. They jumped on behalf of education equity from the whole child perspective, No Kid Hungry, and Backpack Pals, respectively.

Doug Price, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Charter School Teacher of the Year, and Damon Walcott, 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Southeast Teacher of the Year, jumped to advance causes that speak to the essence of who they are as educators. Price jumped on behalf of the Foster Family Alliance and Walcott jumped for arts education.

Courtesy of Mariah Morris

I stepped outside of my comfort zone on the edge of the airplane door and jumped for what I know to be true in education.

As a state, we must commit to fully fund our schools in order to create learning spaces that are able to reach all of our children.

When it was my turn to jump, I humbly stood at the airplane door and looked out on the world below. I faced my fears in hopes of inspiring educational leaders to take the leap and fully fund our public schools.

It is with immense pride that I can say our 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teachers of the Year put it all on the line as we jumped out of an airplane at 14,000 feet to advance our voices in a real and meaningful way. Martin Luther King, Jr. says that “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We chose to not stay silent on August 9. We chose to stand proudly and speak loudly from our hearts about what we know to be true in education.


Editor’s note: The Burroughs Wellcome Fund supports the work of EducationNC.

Mariah Morris

Mariah Morris is the 2019 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year. She proudly teaches second grade at West Pine Elementary School in Moore County where she integrates STEM into her student-centered curriculum.