Teachers, administrators, student-athletes honored, recognized during Stanly County board meeting

Published 3:48 pm Thursday, June 9, 2022

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From scores of teachers and staff members receiving noteworthy end of the year awards, to state championship-winning teams and individual athletes being feted, to the West Stanly Players singing rousing musical numbers from “Mamma Mia,” so many people across the district were recognized and highlighted during Tuesday night’s packed school board meeting that board chair Glenda Gibson offered the highest of praise.

“I think this was the top board meeting, for me, of all time,” she said. “I have never seen as many recognitions — ever.”

Teacher, Principal of the Year Honors 

The tone of a celebratory feel was set at the beginning of the meeting when a few members of the West Stanly Players treated the audience to two songs — “Slipping Through My Fingers” and “Dancing Queen” — from its recent production “Mamma Mia.”

Like always, the most anticipated moments during the star-studded night came during the presentation of the end-of-year awards, including Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year.

Though the school year presented teachers and staff members with many obstacles and challenges, “one thing that has remained consistent: both staff members and families of Stanly County Schools students have worked together to ensure our students are taken care of,” said Lynn Plummer, director of elementary education and AIG, who presented the awards. “We have remained steadfast in the support we have given, promising to do what is best for our children.”

“Today is a celebration,” he continued. “What better way to end the 2021-2022 school year than by recognizing some of our very own dedicated SCS employees?”

The three finalists for Teacher of the Year were Jennifer Ingram, who teaches third grade at Badin Elementary; Stephen Wilcox, who teaches social studies at North Stanly Middle; and Thomas La Bianca, who teaches English at West Stanly High. The winner was Wilcox.

“Our teacher of the year ensures that education transcends the classroom by encouraging students to explore the world around them, continuously learning from their experiences,” Plummer said, reading brief comments about the individual. “They believe that each and every individual, with their own specific interests, talents, knowledge and areas of expertise, can work together to accomplish what our nation as whole sets our minds to.”

The teachers nominated from the other schools were Dana Bowers-Yang from Aquadale; Christie Talbert of Central; Emily Harrison of East Albemarle; Cindy Behling of Endy; Amy Lowder of Locust; Dianne Austin of Millingport; Rebekah Burleson of Norwood; Jennifer Crawford of Oakboro Choice STEM; Crystal Morris of Richfield; Heather Nance of Stanfield; Judy Almond of SCoVE; Shawn Graeff of Albemarle Middle; Beth Gentry of South Stanly Middle; Paige Parker of West Stanly Middle; Chaundra Snuggs of Albemarle High; Joanna Gagliardi of North Stanly High; Austin “AJ” Bennett of South Stanly High; Teresa Crump of Stanly Academy; Victor Ubaldo of Stanly Early College; and Darcey Tomasino of Stanly STEM Early College.

The five finalists for Beginning Teacher of the Year were Regan Allen of North Stanly High; Amber Britt of East Albemarle; Caroline Brown of Albemarle High; Shanna Crump of Central Elementary; and Madison Ragsdale of Central Elementary. The winner was Ragsdale.

“Our 2021-2022 beginning teacher of the year says her goal as a teacher is for her students to always know her classroom is a safe place for them,” Plummer said. “She wants her students to discover themselves and be able to think critically, promoting individual growth to give her students a body of knowledge.”

The inaugural CTE Teacher of the Year went to Natalee Rogers, agriculture teacher at West Stanly High.

“She goes above and beyond, not only for her student, but also her peers,” said Mandy Melton, noting Rogers can usually be found at the barn, alongside several animals including Daisy, the school’s pig, and Ricky, the school’s bearded dragon.

The three finalists for Principal of the Year were Megan DePasquale of Millingport Elementary; Kevin Adams of Stanly Early College and Stanly STEM Early College; and Anne McLendon of West Stanly High. The winner, announced by 2020-2021 Principal of the Year Dr. Erik Johnson Huneycutt, was Adams.

“Our principal of the year is described by their peers as keeping a positive outlook and high morale, never asking staff to do anything they aren’t willing to do, wearing many hats throughout the school and doing so with grace,” Plummer said. “In the end, they live out an important principle instilled in them by their father: Everybody counts, everybody’s important.”

The three finalists for Assistant Principal of the Year were Brooke Davis of West Stanly Middle, Kelly Hill of Central Elementary and Marty Ingram of West Stanly High. The winner, announced by 2020-2021 Assistant Principal of the Year Judith Taylor, was Hill.

“They are described by their peers of being extremely dedicated and committed to the profession, having a strong understanding of curriculum and best practices of teaching and bringing a dedication to get the job done the right way while enlightening everyone with a bright bubbly personality, lots of laughs, a positive energy and a problem-solving mindset,” Plummer said.

Stanly County Schools also began a tradition of presenting awards to principals of schools that showed the highest growth as measured by their composite scores on EOG and EOC tests. One school was represented by each category (elementary, middle, high and specialty). The four schools honored were Endy Elementary, West Stanly Middle, South Stanly High and Oakboro Choice STEM.

“These principals will hold the coveted High Growth Cup for the coming year and then we will meet back here at this time next year with our new recipients — possibly — of high growth schools,” Assistant Superintendent Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis said.

Highlighting Student Successes

With Stanly County comprising half of the four 2022 state champion softball teams in the state, both the South Stanly softball team and the West Stanly softball team were duly recognized for their championship performances last weekend.

South (30-3) defeated Bear Grass Charter in two games to take home the 1A championship, the school’s third overall and first since 2012, while West (29-4) won its third straight 2A title and fourth in the past nine years by knocking out previously undefeated Washington High.

“It’s more than just a sport, or a game to some of us,” South Stanly coach David Poplin told the crowd. “It’s not about the wins, the losses, the winning awards, getting a paycheck; it’s about the passion that we have and we share as players and as coaches that matters.”

Poplin also emphasized how incredible it was that the two state championship teams are only a few miles apart.

“You are looking at some of the finest talent in the state of North Carolina, and they’re only 14 miles from each other,” he said. “These two teams did an awesome job representing Stanly County in a positive light and with true sportsmanship, not just this past weekend but all season.”

West coach Emily Smith mentioned the team had to overcome some adversity, after uncharacteristically losing several games early in the season. Through eight games, the team was only 5-3.

“We had to dig deep within ourselves to figure out where we wanted to go and then we won 24 of the next 25 games, leading us to a third consecutive state championship,” she said.

South Stanly’s golf team captured the school’s first state title in the sport last month at Longleaf Golf and Family Club in Southern Pines and head coach Doug Smith and his players were congratulated for their achievement.

For two individual accomplishments, West Stanly’s Natalie Almond was recognized for winning the 2A title in the 1,600-meter run and Albemarle’s Ali Currie was recognized for winning the 1A title in the triple jump.

West Stanly’s Nyah Burris was recognized for being part of the the 2022 All-State Band.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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