Three LCPS teachers from different backgrounds working different assignments have this in common: they are finalists in the search for LCPS Teacher of the Year for 2017-2018.
A panel of judges who interviewed each school’s Teacher of the Year on Wednesday named Maria Johnson of Banks Elementary School, Sabrina Martiello of Kinston High School and Jennifer McLawhorn of Pink Hill Elementary School as the three teachers who will continue in the competition.
“The quality of each Teacher of the Year chosen by our schools ensured that our three finalists would be an exceptional group,” said Robin Roberson, LCPS human resources director, who organizes the LCPS Teacher of the Year award process. “Any one of the three would be a strong representative of the direction the district is moving and the effort our teachers make on behalf of students.”
Johnson, a native of Kinston who grew up in Greenville, teaches kindergarten at Banks Elementary, where she joined the faculty in 2013. Previously, she taught first grade for a year in Littleton and was a student teacher at a primary school in Swadesi, South Africa, as part of a program offered through UNC-Wilmington, where Johnson graduated in 20011 with a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education.
She also holds a master of education degree in elementary education and a master’s of school administration degree, both from East Carolina University. At Banks, she is the school improvement team process manager and leader of a program that assists beginning teachers.
A strong proponent of digital learning, Johnson is a leader in related professional development and her students have given glimpses of their digital skills to the local school board, to school superintendents from the region and to former governor Bev Perdue, who recently toured Banks.
Martiello, a native of Florida, came to Kinston through the Teach for America program and stayed past her two-year commitment period to teach English at Kinston High, where she’s been for four years. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Florida.
She is a mentor teacher at KHS, a member of the school improvement team, yearbook advisor and active in a host of extracurricular activities at her school. She has coached women’s varsity soccer and tennis. She is the founder and advisor of Kinston Leadership Team, a summer leadership program active since 2014.
She is a leader of the district’s Literacy Design Collaborative, which develops resources for literacy instruction. She is scheduled to present from her work this summer at the Southern Regional Education Board’s College and Career Readiness Standards Networking Conference in Nashville, Tenn., and at the Southeast Education Alliance Foundation’s SEA Summit in Swansboro.
McLawhorn teachers first grade at Pink Hill Elementary, where she has worked since 1999. A Lenoir County native and a product of its public schools, she earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Campbell University in 1999, graduating magna cum laude, and has since earned National Board Certification, as well as certification as a reading recovery teacher, as a teacher of academically or intellectually gifted students and as a clinical teacher.
She is an active and successful grant writer for her school, a Youth Council member and Mary’s Kitchen volunteer for her church.
A school improvement team leader and grade level chairperson, McLawhorn was also named Pink Hill’s Teacher of the Year for 2003-2004. For the past year, she has taught in the English Language Adult Learners program at Lenoir Community College.
The three finalists were selected by a five-person panel of current and former LCPS employees, including the current Teacher of the Year Alicia Stanley. The judges interviewed each school’s Teacher of the Year and considered her resume and an essay each wrote on what she considered the major issue facing public education today.
The judges will observe each finalist in her classroom next month before selecting the district’s Teacher of the Year.
The winner will be announced at the district’s annual Teacher of the Year banquet on April 27. The district will also announce its Principal of the Year then.
In the past, both honors have been announced in the fall. The schedule was changed to better fit with the schedule for regional and state competitions for both principals and teachers, according to Roberson.
Selected by their school as Teacher of the Year, in addition to the three finalists, are: Tiffanie Chase, South Lenoir High School; Sabrina Goodall, Teachers Memorial Pre-K; Letita Joyner, Lenoir County Learning Academy; Vashawn Daniels, Rochelle Middle School; Jennifer Bell, Southeast Elementary School; Christy Groves, Northwest Elementary School; Caroline Murphrey, Southwood Elementary School; Jessica Jones, Woodington Middle School; Susan Hines, Lenoir County Early College; Sara Pennington, Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School; Melanie McCoy, Northeast Elementary School; Nineva Jefferson, North Lenoir High School; Millicent Sanderson, Moss Hill Elementary School; Suzanna Moye, Frink Middle School and Gwen Smith, La Grange Elementary School.