Alexander County Schools hosted a YouTube watch party on Wednesday, May 5, 2021, to celebrate all school system employees and the school level nominees for the district of the year title. Five categories of employees were recognized during the live event, beginning teachers, classified support staff, certified support staff, teachers, and principals. A district winner in each category was announced.
Beginning Teacher of the Year
Mr. Zachary Richardson, a fourth-grade teacher at Wittenburg Elementary School, is the 2021 Beginning Teacher of the Year. He is a 2020 graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University. His degree is in elementary education with a minor in special education. He anticipates graduating from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro with a Master’s in education with a concentration in elementary mathematics.
“My goal for students is to become confident in their learning. My goal for students is to enjoy coming to school. I want my students to come in every day eager and ready to learn, and when they are not, to feel safe and protected,” commented Mr. Zachary.
“Mr. Richardson is the definition of going above and beyond. However, to him, it’s just doing his job. I have never had a first-year teacher who has worked harder and taken on more challenges in their first year of teaching,” stated Mrs. Mary Brown, Wittenburg’s principal. “Mr. Richardson has done all these things during a pandemic!”
Classified Support Staff of the Year
Mrs. Debbie Schrum, the receptionist at West Alexander Middle School (WAMS), is the 2021-2022 Classified Support Staff of the Year. Mrs. Schrum has been in her current position for seven years and in our school system for over 16 years.
“My goal each and every day is to help create a positive school ethos and ensure students are learning in a safe and supportive environment,” commented Mrs. Schrum.
“Through the years, Mrs. Schrum has continued to lift the culture of West Alexander Middle School through her positivity. Her dedication to excellence has modeled and influenced personal and professional growth in all students, staff, and the community of our school,” stated Mrs. Katelyn Nash, WAMS assistant principal.
Certified Support Staff of the Year
Mrs. Ginny Harrison, behavior therapist for Head Start, is the 2021-2022 Certified Support Staff of the Year. Mrs. Harrison is a licensed clinical mental health counselor serving our youngest students in the Head Start program. She is based at Bethlehem Elementary School but serves all Head Start students and staff.
“I have served the children and families of Alexander County for 13 years in clinical practice and recently with Head Start. My ministry focus is to support children and families in their journeys toward wellness,” stated Mrs. Harrison.
“In her first year, Mrs. Harrison has formed several support groups for Head Start families and has managed to include residents from the community in the groups,” stated Ms. Macy Jones, Head Start director.
“Ginny is an incredibly generous person. She is always offering all her time, energy, and joy to serve others. She is caring, passionate, and loving,” commented Karen Rodriguez, Head Start health services manager.
Teacher of the Year
Mr. Ed Wills, a social studies teacher at Alexander Central High School (ACHS), is the 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year. He currently teaches Advanced Placement and Honors classes. He has taught and served as the men’s basketball coach for 17 years.
“As a teacher, I want all of my students to know that I believe in them. I want my students to be willing to dream big and to strive for things others might think are unrealistic,” stated Mr. Wills.
“Coach Wills has extremely high standards, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, he is willing to work with students to develop their skills so that they can meet those standards,” stated Mrs. Andrea Robinette, assistant principal at ACHS.
“I find time to have conversations with them [students] about things other than class, and I am not afraid to take class time to ensure that they are doing okay, to celebrate their successes, or work through their challenges,” commented Mr. Wills.
Principal of the Year
Ms. Janel Lingle, principal at Taylorsville Elementary School (TES), is the 2021-2022 Principal of the Year. She has been the principal at TES for five years but in school administration for 21 years. She served as an assistant principal at Alexander Central for 16 years.
“Every adult that I encounter has a clear understanding that the first priority at our school is always the child – every time, every child. That begins with me,” commented Ms. Lingle. “It is my goal at any time that I have the opportunity to speak about our system and TES to show that there is no question that my heart is in the service of children and their wellbeing and education.”
“Ms. Lingle goes above and beyond to make sure the students, staff, and parents feel supported at TES. She provides a safe place for students to learn, not only academically but socially/emotionally and other areas of life. I know TES has faced many challenges over the last few years, and Janel has remained strong to help lead us to where we are today,” stated Courtney Bebber, a teacher at TES.
The YouTube Live Stream and watch parties were an effort to celebrate the employees and the school nominees. Due to COVID restrictions last year, we were unable to host an event.
“This method wasn’t perfect, but it was a way to celebrate together and apart,” commented a district official. “Celebrating our employees is a highlight of the school year.”