Skip to content

EdNC. Essential education news. Important stories. Your voice.

Perspective | Words of hope from North Carolina’s Regional Teachers of the Year

The following is Mary Ann Wolf’s “Final Word” from the December 17, 2022 episode of Education Matters: “A Discussion with NC Regional Teachers of the Year.”

For this Final Word, our 2022 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teachers of the Year shared what gives them hope.

Leah Carper, 2022 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year, Piedmont Triad North Carolina 2022 Regional Teacher of the Year, Guilford County:

When I go into classrooms across North Carolina, I’m so excited to see culturally responsive teaching practices and culturally responsive curriculum, reading resources for our students. Our students are seeing themselves in their classrooms, in their environments, and the things that they’re learning.

Ryan Mitchell, West North Carolina 2022 Regional Teacher of the Year, Henderson County:

I’m going to quote the great philosopher Barb Cuney, aka my grandma. She used to say to me every single day that there’s greatness inside every day. You just have to look for it. And I kind of live by that motto. So what gives me hope is when I look around and it’s the little greatness that happens in the day, right? A kid picking up trash that wasn’t theirs. A kid comforting a friend that fell down on the playground, a kid that is willing to stay and help somebody who might be struggling. Just those little things, those little moments, even on hard days, are so impactful.

Elizabeth Santamour, Sandhills North Carolina 2022 Regional Teacher of the Year, Hoke County:

I have so much hope when I see beginning teachers and new teachers, because it reminds me that I was in that position at one point, and I’ve gotten to this point. So as they learn and they’re supported and they grow, there’s so much hope for that next generation of educators and the impact they’re going to have on the kids in our state.

Ashtyn Berry, Southwest North Carolina 2022 Regional Teacher of the Year, Cabarrus County:

I have been so thrilled this year to visit so many classrooms already. Our cohort has focused on collecting stories and then sharing those stories on a platform that can reach all teachers across North Carolina. And the cohort that came before us started a network of teacher leaders that essentially connects schools to districts, to regions, to state. And the fact that we are actually starting to break down those silos gives me a lot of hope. Teachers are starting to talk across district lines and across regional lines, and that is just really exciting.

Keegan Storrs, North Carolina 2022 Charter School Teacher of the Year:

Honestly, Leah Carper gives me hope, and Elizabeth Santamour, and Ashton Berry, and Ryan Mitchell, and Clinton Todd, and Abby Nobles, and Ashley Bandy, and Brian Link give me hope. Every time I work with these people, I’m reminded of how powerful educators are as a legion, as a group, and as a force. And every day we work so hard to move students forward, and I’m so glad that I’m reminded constantly by this team that I’m not alone in this work and that none of us is.

Clinton Todd, Northeast North Carolina 2022 Regional Teacher of the Year, Pitt County:

One of the things that really gives me hope is when I see students who are willing and able to step up and be influential in their own environments, who are also empowered to be leaders within the schools, whether it’s having a classroom role or whether it is being really involved in a club. One of my students last year wrote a $10,000 grant for the school. And when I see students who are given the freedom to do that kind of work and to take the reins and get to see themselves be successful, then I know that they are going to keep that success within themselves for the rest of their lives. And they’ll leave our school systems being confident and productive people. And I can’t ask for anything more than that.

Each of the North Carolina Teachers of the Year definitely gives me hope. And so I just am so grateful to be able to spend this time with you and for us to share your message, hopefully even further out into the world, across our state. So thank you for everything you do every single day.

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.