Leah Carper, an English teacher at North Gilford High School, was named Burroughs Wellcome Fund Teacher of the Year in North Carolina for 2022 during an awards lunch today at the Umstead Hotel in Curry. Carper was selected from a field of nine finalists representing the country’s eight education districts and charter schools.
Carper, known in her school as a “student teacher,” highlights student involvement in her class as one of her highest priorities, whether teaching face-to-face or actually during months of distance teaching forced by the COVID-19 epidemic.
While teaching through the computer last year, Carper invited visitors “guests” to her virtual classroom to grab the attention of her tired screen students. One day it might have been “grandma grammar” to warn of running penalties; Another day, Mr. Eddie Kit taught proper manners when composing a professional email. Others included Batman, The Grinch, Banksy, Hagrid, Hermione Granger and even Shakespeare.
“When it comes to teaching, I’m going to do what’s right for my students,” Carper said in the Teacher of the Year submission. “Sometimes it means dressing up in silly costumes. Other times it’s choosing reading materials that appeal to their interests, experiences and ideals.”
She said she takes her clues from her students and what they need and adjusts her approach to what works best for them.
“My class is not just my class; it’s theirs too,” she explains. “No matter what, I’m always willing to try something new, creative, weird or random if I think it will effectively grab my students’ attention and imagination.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Travit said Carper’s approach was both refreshing and wise.
“A special teacher is needed to understand what really interests and motivates high school students,” Travit said, “and it’s clear that Leah has found a way into their world that makes learning fun, engaging and effective. She deserves this important recognition.”
Janice McKenzie, principal of North Gilford High School, said in a letter recommending Carper as teacher this year that she is able to communicate with all students, “from those who struggle the most to those with academic skills.”
“Leah demonstrates exceptional and fascinating teaching better than anyone in my 20 years of educational experience,” McKenzie said. “My biggest disappointment is that I have no more teachers like her, who are willing to do the extra mile to keep students engaged in their learning and feel that they and their voice are valued.”
Carper has been an English teacher at Northern Guilford High since 2016. She began her teaching career in 2006 at Western Guilford High after earning a bachelor’s degree in English education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Queens of Charlotte.
Carper replaces the 2021 teacher of the year, Eugenia Floyd, a fourth-grade teacher at Mary Scruggs Elementary School in the Chapel Hill-Carborough School District. NC Burroughs Wellcome Teacher of the Year was selected by a committee of professional educators as well as business and community leaders. Members of the state’s selection committee are elected based on their active public record of supporting education.
Dr. Lou Muglia, president and CEO of the Burroughs Wellcome Foundation, said the foundation continues to be proud to support the North Carolina Teacher of the Year Award.
“The impact these gains have had on innovation in education, diversity and equality in our schools has been enormous,” Muglia said. “We look forward to working closely with Teacher of the Year 2022 and the team of regional finalists to foster an environment of curiosity, inclusion and access to all students in the country.”
Keeping students in the center of the stage, Carper sees her role as more than just a content teacher.
Some teachers, she said, “forget that students are not just students in our curriculum, but they are students of humanity. They learn how to be good people, and they get a great deal of education from their teachers. It is a huge responsibility. Every day, teachers shape the way adults communicate. in the future”.
It also engages students in their field, adopting social media platforms to reach them where they spend a lot of time. She created a teaching-based Instagram account: @how_i_teach_high_school and joined TikTok after her students urged her to post one of their favorite videos to see if it goes viral there. It was.
“Social media is their palm community, and it worries me how much they rely on social media to get their news, entertainment and verification,” Carper said. “It’s important to show students that what we learn is relevant and can be applied to other aspects of their lives, and social media is a huge part of their lives.”
She said she also uses social media to promote public education to a wider public audience.
“I use social media to show the world that teachers can be fun, approachable, kind and smart and to engage and excite people in what’s going on in public schools,” she said.
Safety, including physical, emotional and intellectual dimensions, is also an important focus for her, Carper said, especially after recent years of disruptions.
“I want nothing more than for my students to feel safe when they are in my class,” she said. “I want them to feel that if they have a question or comment, they are sure to share it. I want them to feel confident to express if they are emotionally struggling and need expansion in the task. I want them to feel that our class is a safe place to laugh and express themselves, because when they feel safe, They can learn. “
Carper said that if she could help her students understand what it means to be a good person, she could say she was a successful teacher.
“I teach English. We cover my reading and writing skills in my class,” she said. “I taught my students grammar, vocabulary, writing, research, rhetoric and poetry. My students also have good grades on their standard tests.
“But when my students turn to me years after they left my class, they don’t talk about how great it is that they finally learned what a transition sentence does. They talk about how the class made them feel and how it made them think about the world around them.”
Like other regional finalists, Carper was first recognized this school year as Teacher of the Year in her school and district.
As Teacher of the Year, she will spend the next school year touring the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession supported by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the North Carolina Public Teaching Department.
In addition, Carper will have the opportunity to attend a seminar at the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), receive a $ 1,600 mobile device from Lenovo, a cone vase, a $ 7,500 cash prize, a trip to this year’s National Teacher Conference and International Space Camp, An award package and a chance to be honored during a football game by NC State Athletics, support from No Kid Hungry NC, a $ 2,000 cash prize from Flow Honda to help travel costs in the state as a teacher this year, a $ 1,000 cash prize from Bojangles and a chance to travel abroad. To through Dedicate sponsored by Go Global NC.
Carper will also serve as an advisor to the State Board of Education for two years and as a board member of the NC Public School Forum for one year.
The other regional finalists were:
- Northeast: Clinton Todd, Rose J. High School (Pete County Schools)
- Southeast: Abbey Nobles, New Hanover High (New Hanover County Schools)
- North Center: Brian Link, East Chapel Hill High (Chapel Hill-Carborough City Schools)
- Sandhills: Elizabeth Sentmore, Middle East Hawk (Hawk County Schools)
- Southwest: Ashtyn Berry, WR Odell Elementary (Cabarrus County Schools)
- Northwest: Ashley Bendy, Newton-Conver High School (Newton-Conver City Schools)
- West: Ryan Mitchell, Mills River Elementary (Henderson County Public Schools)
- Charter Schools: Keegan Storrs, Roxboro Community School
North Carolina has recognized outstanding teachers through its Teacher of the Year program since 1970. For more information about the North Carolina Teacher of the Year Recognition Program, visit the program’s website. You can also follow North Carolina Teacher of the Year finalists on Twitter at #NCTOYPOY
With the support of Equitable Advisors and PBS North Carolina, a live broadcast recording of this year’s Teacher of the Year event will be available on DPI’s YouTube channel following the event.