A fourth-grade teacher whose impressive work has earned her Teacher of the Year awards at two different schools can now claim the title for all of Lenoir County Public Schools.
Katena Cherry of Southeast Elementary School was named LCPS Teacher of the Year for 2018-2019 at the district’s annual employee awards banquet Thursday night.
She was chosen from a field of 18 school nominees that a panel of judges pared down to three finalists based on a written portfolio, an interview and a classroom observation. As the district’s winner, Cherry will represent LCPS in regional Teacher of the Year competition next December.
She and her fellow finalists – Ashley Martin, a fifth-grade teacher at Banks Elementary, and Hope Woolard, a math teacher at South Lenoir High – each addressed the audience of nearly 300 prior to the award announcement, providing a peek at their professional history and educational philosophy.
“Our students provide us with a daily glimpse of the past, present and the future,” Cherry said. “The remind us of when we were children. They come to us in this present moment for guidance in the hope of learning how to live and to help others in the next generation live their future.”
Cherry’s present was shaped by a past in her native Kinston and in the public schools here, where she was a student at Southeast and a graduate of Kinston High School. “As I transitioned through my school years there was just a kernel that started to grow as I watched my teachers teach in the classroom each year,” she said. “By third grade, the desire to become a teacher had taken root and from that point I did everything I could to become a teacher.”
A teacher for 17 years in North Carolina, Florida and Virginia, Cherry earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at East Carolina University, took graduate courses at UNC-Pembroke and completed her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction through Grand Canyon University.
Prior to being named the current Teacher of the Year at Southeast Elementary, where she is in her second year, Cherry was selected as Teacher of the Year at Carver Heights Elementary School in Goldsboro in 2007.
“She’s a phenomenal teacher,” said Maria Johnson, the district’s 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year and a colleague of Cherry’s at Southeast. “She makes her students understand what her teaching means to their everyday lives. That’s so important for the students we teach.”
Cherry shared the spotlight Thursday night with E.B. Frink Middle School principal Elizabeth Pierce, named LCPS Principal of the Year for 2018-2019.
Pierce is in her 13th year as an educator and her second year as the principal at Frink. Previously, she was principal of Moss Hill Elementary School for two years and worked at an assistant principal at Rochelle and Woodington middle schools and Kinston High School.
“I’m just so appreciative,” Pierce said in acknowledging the help she receives from her staff at Frink, her peers and district administrators. “It takes so many people to do anything well. We have to do it as a team.”
As Principal of the Year, she will represent the district in the regional process to select a top principal for the state’s southeastern counties.
Also honored at the banquet were Daphne Pollock of South Lenoir High School, Assistant Principal of the Year; Corey Bryant of Kinston High School, Teacher Assistant of the Year; Mildred Starkey of Rochelle Middle School, Office Assistant of the Year; and Jarvis Nobles of Lenoir County Learning Academy, Custodian of the Year.
“These team members honored here tonight truly do exemplify, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest of all human aspirations – service beyond self,” LCPS Superintendent Brent Williams said in closing remarks. “The results of their labor everyday can be seen by anyone who chooses to see it. If people need proof of the awesome things people in this room are doing for kids, the proof can be found in our classrooms and in our hallways everyday.”