Three teachers who took different paths to the classroom have ended up at the same high point of their careers – finalists for recognition as 2019-2020 LCPS Teacher of the Year.
Jennifer Sutton of La Grange Elementary School, Britni Davis of Banks Elementary School and Savannah McIntyre of Kinston High School were selected from the 18 teachers chosen to represent each district school and its pre-kindergarten program as Teacher of the Year.
Each school representative compiled a portfolio describing their educational history, their professional biography and philosophy of teaching. They were interviewed by a panel of judges – comprised of district administrators and staff – on Wednesday, when the finalists were announced.
The same panel will chose the winner from the three finalists based in part on classroom observations scheduled for February. The finalists will also keynote the district’s annual employee recognition banquet on April 4. At that banquet, Teacher of the Year, Employee of the Year and Principal of the Year winners will be announced.
“It was extremely hard to just choose three finalists when all of the candidates were of such high caliber,” said Pam Heath, district human resources manager, who organizes the Teacher of the Year selection process. “All of the candidates spoke from the heart about their passion for teaching and their love for their students.
“The judges are really excited about getting into the classrooms of the finalists to observe them in their classroom setting and truly see them shine.”
The most veteran of the finalists, Sutton began her 22 years in education as a computer teacher after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in business and marketing education. She spent 10 years at Northwest Elementary before moving to La Grange after a short stint with Wayne County schools. She settled into the second grade at La Grange, where she is grade chair, a member of the School Improvement Team, a mentor for beginning teachers and a clinical teacher for interns from East Carolina University.
She became a National Board Certified Teacher in 2010 and was previously chosen as La Grange’s Teacher of the Year for 2010-2011.
“Each child deserves to learn and be loved and our parents should know that together we can help their child be successful,” Sutton wrote in her portfolio.
Davis, a teacher for six years, went from college to the classroom after earning a degree in elementary education as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow. She started as a fifth grade teacher in Cumberland County and joined LCPS as a fourth-grade teacher at Banks in 2015. She is grade chair at Banks.
According to the biography reviewed by the judges, as the child of a military family frequently on the move, school became a constant in her life. “I attended a different school every year until I was almost through with middle school,” she wrote. “Each school had different teachers and different students but always followed a similar routine. Going to school and being in the classroom quickly became my safe place.”
Her classroom at Banks stands out for its bright décor, non-traditional furnishings and high energy. “Learning is a personal journey for students and I believe students of all ages should have some choice in how they learn,” she wrote.
McIntyre has spent her four years in education in the social studies department at Kinston High School, where she arrived through the Teach for America program and where she currently teaches civics and economics. She is active in professional development activities at KHS, particularly in the areas of literacy and technology and is a member of the School Improvement Team.
She credits a U.S. History teacher during her sophomore year in high school with erasing her dread of reading and igniting a passion for learning that ultimately led McIntyre into teaching. “By becoming a teacher, I got to be a part of the team of people working to ensure that children have access to the education that they need to live the life that they want,” she wrote in her portfolio.
To that end, she is a strong advocate for the use of digital tools – the iPads LCPS provides students and an array of educational apps, for instance – as a way to individualize instruction, teach time management skills and open students’ eyes to the larger world around them.
“The world my students enter into after high school will be a global one. They will need skills to help them work with people from different cultural backgrounds from their own,” she wrote.