Moore County's MCS Names Year's Top Teacher, Principal page

MCS Names Year's Top Teacher, Principal

MCS Names Year's Top Teacher, Principal
This is the image for the news article titled MCS Names Year's Top Teacher, PrincipalMary Kate Murphy, The Pilot

Some of the Moore County Schools teachers honored in a Thursday evening banquet are former teacher assistants, or came to teaching as a second career after the military.

They coach robotics and track, direct holiday musicals, mentor beginning teachers and lead committees tackling everything from academic improvement to proactive strategies to influence student behavior.

Each year the teachers at every school in the district select a Teacher of the Year who has made the greatest contribution toward that school’s growth and culture.

Moore County Schools honored those 22 educators with a banquet at Pinehurst Country Club on Thursday. But only one of them can serve as the district-wide Teacher of the Year for the upcoming school year: Southern Pines Elementary’s Melanie Henderson.

Henderson has taught for 16 years after starting out as a nutritionist teaching family and consumer science in Charlotte. She’s also taught in South Carolina, and is in her second year at Southern Pines Elementary — where as the music teacher she’s part of the fabric of the school for all of the students and teachers there...

Along the way she realized she wanted to share her lifelong love of music, especially singing and piano, with her students from a young age. During Henderson’s time at Southern Pines she’s worked to ensure that music touches every student.

This year she organized three holiday musical programs in as many nights, lent her expertise to the drama club, and secured a Public Education Foundation grant to buy enough keyboards for all students to use.

Southern Pines Elementary music teacher and district Teacher of the Year
Melanie Henderson, center, with Interim Superintendent Tim Locklair and 
board Chair Pam Thompson.
“I lean heavily on instruments, just getting their hands on instruments even though they may not do it perfectly, just giving that experience to them,” said Henderson.

“I hope that they develop a general love of music, for all types of music, that they are exposed to a variety of music and they can appreciate the differences in all the types of music out there.”

Tonya Wagner, principal at Southern Pines Elementary, said that Henderson has always gone above and beyond her strict job description when it comes to helping make the school a better place. The district wide Teacher of the Year award, she said, reflects the “heart and soul” of her school community.

“At first I did not want to do three holiday programs, but she wanted to make sure everybody had that experience. She takes the time to build relationships with the students, staff and community. She always has a huge smile on her face and has taken a leadership role among her colleagues for sure,” said Wagner.

Pinecrest’s Teacher of the Year, history teacher and wrestling coach Bob Curtin, will be the district’s alternate Teacher of the Year if Henderson is unable to compete for the regional award.

Nominees from each school were interviewed and evaluated by a group of three current Teachers of the Year from other school districts. Gabrienne McBride, from Scotland County, said that they were looking for someone who has demonstrated leadership both in the classroom and school-wide.

She said that just narrowing the field down to a handful of top candidates was a challenge.

“How are they improving academics throughout the whole school, what things are they doing to build relationships with the parents, get the community in the school? We were just looking to see what they’re doing outside the classroom to move the school forward,” said McBride.

“It was really hard. We were really impressed with the talent here in Moore County.”

Thursday’s event was Moore County Schools’ first in-person Teacher of the Year recognition since 2019. Pam Thompson, chair of the Moore County Board of Education, acknowledged the challenges that have faced educators in the years since.

In the spring of 2020 teachers had no notice that they wouldn’t get to finish the school year in person. They spent the next year teaching virtually full-time, then part-time with limited classroom capacity, all the while trying to compensate for the effects of a nearly six-month gap in their students’ education.

“Each one of you made the education of our students work during the most difficult time of our lives, and in every case, in my opinion, made it better than any other school in this state. You did that,” said Thompson. “Each of you persevered and provided our students with educational instruction and made sure our students were engaged and accountable. We have a team in Moore County’s school system of extremely talented, dedicated, caring, strong and intelligent professional educators and leaders across our whole district.”

Moore County Schools’ new Principal of the Year has spent her 28 years in education exclusively in middle schools. Jeni Wiley started teaching to be for the next generation of students what her teachers had been for her.

In her first year in Moore County, she was named New Century Middle School’s Teacher of the Year. Soon after that she earned principal licensure through Sandhills Leadership Academy. Wiley served as principal at Elise Middle School for three years before moving to West Pine Middle in 2020.

Though planning and paperwork are no small part of her job, Wiley said that she stays focused on the ways her role can have a direct effect on what students experience when they come to school every day.

Moore County Schools Principal of the Year Jeni Wiley of West Pine Middle with
Interim Superintendent Tim Locklair and board Chair Pam Thompson.
“No good learning can come without a positive relationship. That is what I believe, that’s what I stand on,” she said. “I have an amazing staff. With the parents, the support that I get from my parents and the community, I’m just blessed. It is truly about building those relationships and the rest falls into place.”

Wiley was shocked speechless after Interim Superintendent Tim Locklair announced her award on Thursday night, and said she was humbled to be named from among a group of capable colleagues whose support she’s always relied on.

“It is a joy to come to work knowing that I’m walking into the building to a phenomenal staff, an amazing administration that I work with, and the principal colleagues I get to walk on this journey with.”

The district’s new school level teachers of the year are: Tynika Morrison, Aberdeen Elementary; Diana Miller, Cameron Elementary; Lisa Moore, Carthage Elementary; Alicia Gatling; Community Learning Center at Pinckney; Felicia Marks, Crains Creek Middle; Johnny Wayne Seawell, Elise Middle; April Lee, Highfalls Elementary; Kylie Edwards, McDeeds Creek Elementary; Crystal Bell, New Century Middle; Karolyn Elmore, North Moore High; Robert Curtin, Pinecrest High; Keri Crowl, Pinehurst Elementary; Rachael Martin Ray, Robbins Elementary; Lori Holland, Sandhills Farm Life Elementary; Jessica Porter, Southern Middle; Melanie Henderson, Southern Pines Elementary; Ryan Giggey, Union Pines High; Dana McPherson, Vass-Lakeview Elementary; Diana Rowland, West End Elementary; Amanda Toner, West Pine Elementary; Emily Braun, West Pine Middle; and Dawn Early, Westmoore Elementary.
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