Innovative English Teacher Named GCS Teacher of the Year
Sept. 21, 2021 — “Students are people. People need connection, safety, support, validation, care, and attention,” is what Leah Carper wrote in her application to become GCS Teacher of the Year. Carper’s leadership and willingness to embrace new trends catapulted her to Teacher of the Year.
An English teacher in Guilford County Schools for more than a decade, Carper has seen a lot of change in her time as an educator. One of those changes is the rise of social media. Carper began a teaching Instagram account and a TikTok account to show not only her students, but the world, that teaching and learning can be fun.
Going the extra mile is just another day for Carper. “When it comes to teaching, I’m going to do what works for my students,” wrote Carper. “Sometimes that means dressing up in silly costumes. Other times it’s selecting reading material that appeals to their interests, experiences, and ideals.”
Carper began her education career as an English teacher at Western High in 2006. In 2016 Carper became an English teacher at Northern High. She continued in various leadership positions including becoming a lead mentor, a principal intern, an NC principal fellow commission member and a PTSA board member.
Carper acknowledged this isn’t a one-person award in her acceptance speech.
“Not one person should win Teacher of the Year for this past year,” said Carper. “This was the hardest year we’ve ever had as educators and I’m so proud of how far we’ve come and what we’ve learned. Everyone who tried to help students learn is a teacher of the year.”
KaTrinka Brown, the principal at Jackson Middle, was named the Principal of the Year.
Under Brown’s leadership Jackson Middle has made impressive strides regarding EVAAS data. When Brown took over at Jackson, the school had a -9.12 EVAAS Growth Index. Within two years at Jackson, Brown not only met EVAAS growth, but exceeded it with a 5.46 EVAAS Growth Index.
In her application, Brown included a letter from her favorite student, her daughter. “Jackson was a family. We fought together, cried together, but most importantly we loved each other and we made it clear every day,” wrote Jada Brown.
In Brown’s acceptance speech she had a message for all educators.
“To all educators, continue to be bold and encouraged to do the right thing for kids,” said Brown. “If you can dream it it’s probably too small. Continue to fight the good fight.”
Numerous GCS schools were recognized for academic achievement and graduation rates at the Celebration of Excellence, which was held at Grimsley High.
The exciting event featured a school spirit competition, singing performances from teachers across the district and the Smith High marching band.
Several other educators were recognized during the program, including the Rookie Teacher of the Year, Mentor of the Year, Counselor of the Year and Assistant Principal of the Year.
These teachers and principals also received top honors:
- Carla Flores-Ballesteros, Allen Jay Elementary, Elementary Principal of the Year
- Marcia Moyd-Williams, Elementary Teacher of the Year
- Melissa Mann, Western Middle, Middle School Teacher of the Year
- Chase Arrington, Western Middle, GCS Assistant Principal of the Year
- Karyle Miller, Northeast High, GCS Mentor of the Year
- Minh McNicholas, Northwest Middle, GCS Rookie Teacher of the Year
- Shana Richards, Guilford eLearning University Prep, Counselor of the Year
Trent Vernon from Jamestown Middle, Marcus Gause from Andrews High and Abe Hege from Fairview Elementary were also Principal of the Year finalists.
Tom Anderson from Christine Joyner Greene Education Center, Shanice Foye from Northeast High and Tyrelle Lee from Southeast Middle were also Teacher of the Year finalists.
GCS’ Celebration of Excellence was sponsored by Guilford Education Alliance.