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Perspective | What gives you hope? N.C. Principal and Teachers of the Year share what inspires them

The following is Mary Ann Wolf’s “Final Word” from the September 3, 2022 broadcast of Education Matters: “A Discussion of the New School Year.”

A new school year has just gotten underway. It is a time of expectation and ambition. We recently had the opportunity to talk with North Carolina’s 2022 Wells Fargo Principal of the Year Dr. Patrick Greene, and the 2021 and 2022 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Teachers of the Year — Eugenia Floyd and Leah Carper. We asked each what gives them hope as the new school year starts and affirms their faith that education is critical for North Carolina.

Dr. Patrick Greene, 2022 North Carolina Principal of the Year

“My moment of hope came as I saw students that participated in the many summer programs we were able to offer that had already built bonds with our incoming freshmen and our older students. That first-day ‘cafeteria anxiety’ can be one of the worst feelings for ninth graders. But they were sitting with upperclassmen who they had built those relationships with, and it was a great first day for them. They didn’t look terrified like normal. And it was just a feel-good moment to watch that happen, because we had placed investments throughout this summer to make sure kids felt comfortable at school.

One day this summer I was able to go to many training sessions for teachers, and even the most veteran teachers wanted to learn more. They wanted to do something different. They wanted to change it up.  They wanted to try something new. They wanted to expand their tool kits so they could better serve our students.”

Leah Carper, 2022 North Carolina Teacher of the Year

“Teachers are definitely underpaid and everyone says: ‘You do it for the outcomes, not the income.’ Well, we do it for all. Of course we do it for that, but it would be nice to be paid more. I just want to make sure we all know that it would be great if we stopped using that as the excuse to not pay teachers more. Let’s normalize that.

But my moment of hope was seeing that every teacher I met was excited for this school year to start. Not one of them — and I met hundreds of teachers — was like ‘here we go again.’ They’re ready. They want to do wonderful things. So let’s support them. They want to get better every year. These are teachers who have been teaching way longer than I have, and they’re asking what else they can do. They want to learn more.

That hunger gives me so much hope. Seeing that North Carolina educators are so excited to have the job they have. Let’s help them keep that job. Let’s help them want to stay in this job. We want excited, passionate, open educators helping our students because that will help North Carolina for everyone.”

Eugenia Floyd, 2021 North Carolina Teacher of the Year

“Yesterday was the first day of school, and I had the opportunity to walk a first-grader to class. She was a little late for class so I got to walk her there and I told her, ‘We are so excited that you are here.’ She looked up at me like, ‘Really?’  And I told her, ‘This school building is boring without you.’ Just the joy and excitement that came upon her face let you know that she knew that she belonged here and that we as educators are doing everything in our power to make space for her so that she can feel seen, valued, and heard.

She had a little extra step in her walk as we walked back to her classroom, and she was just super excited. That was one of the most joyful moments I think I’ve had in my career — to see a first-grader light up because she knows that these adults in this building have been waiting for her and you know that’s going to carry through to her whole year, and so I just love that.”

A tremendous opportunity

Our state and our kids are so fortunate to have such passionate educators in their classrooms and schools. We have a lot of work to do, but I’m glad that these guests are part of those efforts to make sure that we can do the best for our kids every single day.

North Carolina has the resources and North Carolina has a tremendous opportunity to make sure that every child has access to a high quality and well-prepared teacher and has the opportunity to learn in the best learning environment possible.

Mary Ann Wolf

Mary Ann Wolf, Ph.D. has served as President and Executive Director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina since June 2020, bringing with her more than 20 years of educational policy and leadership working directly with schools and districts across North Carolina to improve equity and build capacity for innovation.