THE DAILY REFLECTOR
For Creekside Elementary School teacher Erin Kessel, the time she spends with her students outside of the classroom is just as important as the time she spends in it.
Her dedication to supporting students in their after-school activities, along with her passion for teaching and being a school leader, earned her the title of Pitt County Schools Teacher of the Year for 2016-17. She was presented the award Wednesday at the district’s annual Teacher of the Year Luncheon at Rock Springs Center.
Kessel, a fourth-grade teacher with five years of experience, described in her Teacher of the Year portfolio how cheering on a student at his baseball game changed his attitude toward her and his schoolwork.
“I saw this student every day in class, saw his struggles, then saw him on the ball field and how excited he was that I was there,” she wrote. ”Seeing how successful he was on the baseball field allowed me to build a connection that carried back to the classroom.”
She said in her acceptance speech Wednesday that investing time in students’ lives is the only way to teach them how to overcome their challenges and build on their strengths.
“Our kids are unbelievable in Pitt County,” she said. “They, some of them, go home to hardly anything, and they come in with a smile on their face. We are the reason for that smile. Our schools are the reason for that smile; every person in our school is the reason for that smile. And if they don’t come in smiling, we make sure they smile at some point in that day.”
A two-time graduate of East Carolina University, Kessel has held many leadership roles at Creekside, including as a Key Beginning Teachers Program member, lead mentor, representative for technology company Istation and Relay for Life captain. She also is a clinical teacher for ECU’s College of Education and a participant in Pitt County Schools’ Teacher Executive Institute for this school year. She has obtained two grants for integrating technology into her classroom and was named the Sylvan Learning Center Teacher of the Year in 2012.
As Pitt County’s Teacher of the Year, she will get to drive a 2017 Hyundai Elantra from Joe Pecheles Hyundai in Greenville free of charge for one year. She also received an HP laptop, a printer, school supplies and a plethora of checks and gift cards from local businesses, including the luncheon’s sponsor, Pitt County Farm Bureau.
The runner-up was veteran educator Jada Rogers, a fourth-grade teacher at Wahl-Coates Elementary.
In her 24 years as a teacher, she has helped develop new curricula and teaching strategies both at Wahl-Coates and in partnership with the ECU College of Education. She has been involved with various groups on the local level, including the Curriculum Reform Focus Group and Teacher Executive Institute, and on the state level, including the North Carolina Teacher Academy and the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Educational Panel. She is a clinical instructor for ECU’s College of Education and was chosen as a researcher and unit writer for the 2011 Teacher Quality Partnership Grant between the college and the school district.
Rogers said in her acceptance speech that she sees teaching as an act of optimism.
“I truly believe that we have to be full of optimism to continue to come in every day and try to bring courage and hope and to be able to pack that into every child’s future,” she said. “We do that starting with loving them.”
Other finalists for Teacher of the Year were: Carol Briley, a kindergarten dual immersion teacher at Belvoir Elementary; Lauren McDermott, a first grade teacher at Wintergreen Primary; Kathryn Shafer, a fifth grade teacher at Wintergreen Intermediate; and Kara Snyder, a second grade teacher at Elmhurst Elementary.
Also at the luncheon, Pitt County Schools recognized its classified employees of the year. The winners, which were announced in January, were: Custodian of the Year Gary Outlaw, Wellcome Middle; Office Employee of the Year Lori Coleman, W.H. Robinson Elementary; Teacher Assistant of the Year Rose Roebuck, Bethel; Child Nutrition Manager of the Year Diane Sumlin, Northwest Elementary; Child Nutrition Employee of the Year Vivian Ordonez, H.B. Sugg Elementary; Bus Driver of the Year Vanessa Mooring, Northwest Elementary; K-8 Bus Driver of the Year Bettie Jones, Grifton; 9-12 Bus Driver of the Year Anthony Johnson, Ayden-Grifton High.
Superintendent Ethan Lenker congratulated all the winners and thanked the sponsors for their dedication to helping local students get a good education.
“You saw the quality of all these individuals out here today, from our teacher assistants to our school secretaries to our bus drivers,” he said. “We’re stacked with quality people here in Pitt County.”
By Holly West, The Daily Reflector
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Contact Holly West at firstname.lastname@example.org or 252-329-9585.