Last updated: May 31. 2013 10:28PM - 291 Views
Lindsay Craven
Staff Writer

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Yadkin County Schools have new bragging rights in 2013. Starmount High School English teacher Chris Petree was named North Carolina’s 2013 Northwest Region Teacher of the Year and will go on to compete in the 2013 N.C. State Teacher of the Year competition in the spring.

Teachers, staff and students were gathered in the Starmount High gymnasium Dec. 12, but they initially knew what they were gathered for. Yadkin County Schools Superintendent Dr. Stewart Hobbs took to the podium to let the students know what they were in for.

“The department of public instruction has coordinated with the national association of recording artists, actors and actresses to promote public education,” Hobbs said. “They have selected one school system where they are sending celebrities to speak to students about the importance of education and the importance of working hard. They asked me to identify a school where they could send somebody and I thought it was very appropriate that I selected Starmount High School.”

After a bit of staging, Dr. Hobbs disappeared to find the celebrity guest, and N.C. State Teacher of the Year Darcy Grimes stepped up to talk to students about the upcoming testing and the importance of their teachers.

“When I think about testing, the one thing that comes to mind are the teachers at your school,” Grimes said. “As a former teacher I understand all of the hard work that goes into teaching. I have been told that there is one specific amazing teacher at this school. This teacher, who stands out among the rest, is someone who is willing to drop everything in order to help other teachers here.”

As Grimes described the qualities that Petree possesses, his family came from the back bearing balloons, a crown and sash declaring him Northwest Region Teacher of the Year.

Students and staff erupted into applause.

‘The administrators at this school have described him as a teacher who would rather come to work than do anything else because teaching is his hobby,” Grimes continued. “Other teachers at the school say that he incorporates 21st century learning with his students and is willing to reach out to anyone who needs help. His students say that he wants the best for everyone in the school and wants everyone to succeed. The students say that he understands them and he teaches all students to think.”

Petree took to the podium to accept his award and address the students, staff and faculty that spoke on his behalf and supported him in his journey.

“I just want to say thank you,” Petree said. “It’s an honor for this privilege but, more importantly, it’s an honor to be able to come here every day and see all of these wonderful, smiling faces. This is the reason I get up; it’s for you all and for no other reason.”

Next, Petree’s former high school science teacher and Board of Education President Howard McKnight shared what it meant to him to have both a former student and local teacher earn such a prestigious award.

“It’s quite a distinction that Chris brings on Starmount High School and the Yadkin County School System,” McKnight said. “On a personal note, it certainly was a pleasure teaching Chris. I never imagined that I would one day be standing here congratulating him on becoming regional teacher of the year but interesting things do happen.”

The school held a reception for Petree’s family and friends and school staff following the announcement. Petree shared that he had no idea what was going to happen at the beginning of the presentation but started to catch on when he noticed the state teacher of the year.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Petree said. “It sounded like it was something that was going to be motivational for testing or that sort of thing. I really didn’t have much of a clue that it had anything to do with me until I started looking around and I saw the current state teacher of the year and it was then that I realized.”

Petree said that while the accolades and acknowledgement are nice, he doesn’t teach for the recognition or the awards.

“I’m going to continue to do what I do because I enjoy what I do,” Petree said. “These awards are just awards. My reward from this comes from actually being able to teach in the classroom with the students.”

Petree will go on in March or April to compete in the N.C. State Teacher of the Year competition. Grimes said that Petree will compete against seven other regions and a charter school. Grimes said that Petree will have to go through another interview process, prepare and present a ten minute speech and address educational topics provided to him on a set of cards.

The winner of the N.C. State Teacher of the Year will be announced in May at a banquet held in Raleigh.

Petree said that he hopes his title of teacher of the year for Yadkin County and the Northwest Region will make a difference for the students and teachers in Yadkin as well as give a voice to teachers across the state.

“I hope that I’m able to not only inspire students but also other teachers in the county,” Petree said. “I’m hoping that I’m able to speak on behalf of education. We are at a transition point in education and I think that it could go either way. I think that that people like me who are in the classroom should have a voice in the changes that are being made to state education.”

Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at lcraven@heartlandpublications.com.

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