By ANGELA FARR KING
The Alexander County School System held their annual Opening Session on Tuesday, August 22, at 9 a.m. The beginning of the program was a time to celebrate some very special employees of the school system.
The 2022 Beginning Teacher of the Year, Mrs. Annie Smith, shared her insights and lessons learned as a new teacher and spoke about each nominee for the 2023 Beginning Teacher of the Year Award, including Autumn Roberts from Alexander Central High School, Charissa Feresse from Bethlehem Elementary, Alayna Galantis from East Alexander Middle School, Lauren Minton from Ellendale Elementary, Kimberly Blankenship from Hiddenite Elementary, Danielle Gourley from Taylorsville Elementary, Aislynn Barnes from Wittenburg Elementary, and Emily Killian from West Alexander Middle School. Kimberly Blankenship from Hiddenite Elementary School was the winner of the 2023 Beginning Teacher of the Year Award.
Alisha Cloer, Director of Human Resources and Auxiliary Services, spoke about each of the nominees for Classified Support Staff of the Year, including Misty Goodman of Alexander Central High School, Christopher Greathouse of the Alexander Early College, Elise Pendleton of Bethlehem Elementary, Chloe Meade of East Alexander Middle, Rhonda Hamby of Ellendale Elementary, Donna Perkins of Hiddenite Elementary, Kelly Peterson of Taylorsville Elementary, Celeste Thick of Sugar Loaf Elementary, Faith Robinson of Stony Point Elementary, Fran Moose of West Alexander Middle School, Dara Grinton of Wittenburg Elementary, and Sherry Deal of Alexander County Head Start. Rhonda Hamby, of Ellendale Elementary School, was selected as the 2023 Classified Support Staff of the Year.
Mr. Matthew Reese, ACS Board Member, spoke about each of the nominees for Certified Support Staff of the Year, including Carrie Head from Alexander Central High School, Stacy Craven from Alexander Early College, Allison Brown from Bethlehem Elementary, Toni Warren from East Alexander Middle School, Sarah Noble from Ellendale Elementary, Jenna Buff from Hiddenite Elementary, Kendra Bowman from Taylorsville Elementary, Courtney Gurley from Stony Point Elementary, Heather Houston from West Alexander Middle School, Dakota Brown from Wittenburg Elementary, and Jennifer Clark from the Central Office. Carrie Head, from Alexander Central High School, was selected as the 2023 Certified Support Staff of the Year.
Kate Harrington was the 2022 Teacher of the Year and she began with a story about a teacher who stays the course even through the most difficult circumstances. She shared comments about each nominee for Teacher of the Year, including Patrick Watkins from Alexander Central High School and the Student Success Center, Melissa Sharpe from the Alexander Early College, Suzanne Goble from the Alexander Virtual Academy, Sara Howell from Bethlehem Elementary, Mark Ford from East Alexander Middle School, Marnie Wills from Ellendale Elementary, Amber Davis from Hiddenite Elementary, Deby Mitchell from Taylorsville Elementary, Tasha Sweet from Sugar Loaf Elementary, Kirsten Barnes from Stony Point Elementary, Matt Cochran from West Alexander Middle School, and Keaton LeBlanc from Wittenburg Elementary. Melissa Sharpe, from the Alexander Early College, was selected as the 2023 Alexander County Teacher of the Year. A video was shown of her students talking about her excellent teaching and her love for her students.
Mr. Andy Palmer was the 2022 Principal of the Year and he spoke about the three nominees for the 2023 Principal of the Year, including Charles Draper from Bethlehem Elementary, Amy Daigle from Hiddenite Elementary, and Katelyn Nash from West Alexander Middle School. Charles Draper, from Bethlehem Elementary, was selected as the 2023 Principal of the Year for Alexander County.
One of the highlights of the Opening Session was when Rev. Jamie Steele, Pastor of East Taylorsville Baptist Church, shared a story about one of his former teachers, Mr. Eric Burgess. Jamie shared that he had not been the best student, but that Mr. Burgess had chosen to love him and to teach him regardless of his flaws. Jamie had the privilege to pray with his former teacher when he was in a coma in the hospital and he was also asked to lead his funeral service when he passed away. He said he would never forget the impact Mr. Burgess had on him.
After the celebrations, Dr. Jennifer Hefner, Alexander County Superintendent of Schools, used her time to talk about the state of emergency for NC Public Education. She talked about the current lack of budget, her concern about a Parent Bill of Rights, the Leonardo Case that is still unsettled, and the political divides in North Carolina that are impacting education.
There are truly many hurdles facing Alexander County Public Educators, but the time of celebration during the Opening Session was a reminder of the great things teachers and staff are still doing despite many obstacles.