GCS Names Rookie Teacher and Mentor of the Year

Guilford County Schools (GCS) recognized the Rosalyn Tanner Orr Mentor of the Year and the Rookie Teacher of the Year at an annual breakfast sponsored by the Guilford Education Alliance, in partnership with BB&T, on Wednesday.

Southeast Middle science teacher Christopher White was named the Rookie Teacher of the Year, while Teresa Fulk, teacher at McLeansville Elementary, was named the Rosalyn Tanner Orr Mentor of the Year.

Like many first-year teachers, White was apprehensive to embrace his own style of teaching. He quickly became determined to teach science in his own style, which included more hands-on learning and a student-centered approach. His confidence led to a major project about soil fertility that the students embraced. "That success with the soil lab led me to create more major projects that drove the students to research, question and experiment," said White.

His principal also noticed how engaged White's students became. "Because of Mr. White's ability to build rapport with students, they truly work hard for him," said Principal Karen Burress. "You'll find his class out in the woods collecting soil samples, in the room making ice cream to show heat transfer or possibly videotaping a project that he will put on his website for his class."

White was one of five finalists who were recognized for impressive accomplishments early in their teaching careers. Tammy Laws, a first- and second-grade teacher at Erwin Montessori, was named the Elementary Rookie Teacher of the Year. Of her exemplary teacher, Principal Deborah Parker said: "Tammy espouses high expectations for her children and it is easy to understand why her children are flourishing academically, emotionally and socially. Tammy's lesson plans are textbook perfect, yet she is able to adjust her plans based on student needs."

Both White and Laws received a $500 award. Additional finalists for Rookie Teacher of the Year were Ria Johnson of Rankin Elementary, Jordan Daniels of Grimsley High and Jared Webb of Kiser Middle.

To ease the transition into a new school year for beginning teachers, veteran educators throughout GCS serve an important and necessary role as mentors. Fulk was nominated by her mentee Amy Wildasin, who says the aspect of their relationship she is most grateful for is Fulk's drive to never let her mentee feel overwhelmed or defeated in her first year of teaching.

"Ms. Fulk and Ms. Wildasin make a wonderful team," said McLeansville Elementary Principal Amy Pendergrass. "The beauty in this level of mentor support is that Ms. Wildasin will no doubt pay it forward for years to come as she mentors future beginning teachers."

Additional finalists for Mentor of the Year were Alexis Gines of Dudley High, Jill McClanahan of Guilford Middle, Rodney Milton of Aycock Middle and Sabrina Peacock of Oak Hill Elementary.

The Mentor of the Year award, which also includes $1,000, is made possible by the Endowment for Excellence in Education of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. It is named in memory of Rosalyn Tanner Orr. Orr received a master's degree in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Gifted as an artist, writer and teacher, she saw first-hand the impact that a great mentor makes, and she took it upon herself to secure funding to make the award possible. Orr served most recently as executive director of The Barnabas Network in Greensboro. With Barnabas, she worked tirelessly to help families and children without homes find shelter and stability.