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NC Teacher of the Year makes learning 'fun, engaging, and effective'

2022 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year
NCDPI
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Carper

An English teacher at Northern Guilford High School, was named Friday the 2022 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year.

Leah Carper was selected from a field of nine finalists representing the state’s eight education districts and charter schools, according to a news release from the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction.

Carper received the honor during an awards luncheon at the Umstead Hotel in Cary.

She is known as a "student's teacher" at her school and student engagement is one of her highest priorities, the release stated.

While teaching via computer last year because of the pandemic, Carper invited “guest” visitors into her virtual classroom to win the attention of her screen-weary students.

One day it may have been “Grammar Grandma” to warn against run-on sentences; another day, "Mr. Eddie Kit" to teach proper etiquette when composing a professional email. Other guests included Batman, the Grinch, Banksy, Hagrid, Hermione Granger and even Shakespeare.

“When it comes to teaching, I’m going to do what works for my students,” Carper said in her Teacher of the Year submission. “Sometimes that means dressing up in silly costumes. Other times it’s selecting reading materials that appeal to their interests, experiences and ideals.”

Carper, who has been an English teacher at Northern Guilford since 2016, said she takes her cues from students and what they need and tailors her approach to what works best for them.

“My classroom isn’t just my classroom; it’s theirs too,” she said. “No matter what, I’m always willing to try something new, creative, weird, or random if I think it will effectively grab and keep the attention and imagination of my students.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said Carper’s approach is both refreshing and astute.

“It takes a special teacher to understand what really interests and motivates high school students,” Truitt said. “And it’s clear that Leah has found a way into their world that makes learning fun, engaging and effective. She’s very deserving of this important recognition.”

Janiese McKenzie, principal of Northern Guilford, said in her letter recommending Carper as Teacher of the Year that Carper’s able to engage with all students, “from those who struggle the most to those that are academically gifted.”

Carper succeeds the 2021 Teacher of the Year, Eugenia Floyd, a fourth-grade teacher at Mary Scroggs Elementary School in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district.

The N.C. Burroughs Wellcome Teacher of the Year is chosen by a committee of professional educators as well as business and community leaders. The state selection committee members are chosen based on their active public record in support of education.

The other regional finalists were:

  • Northeast: Clinton Todd, J.H. Rose High (Pitt County Schools) 
  • Southeast: Abbey Nobles, New Hanover High (New Hanover County Schools) 
  • North Central: Brian Link, East Chapel Hill High (Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools) 
  • Sandhills: Elizabeth Santamour, East Hoke Middle (Hoke County Schools) 
  • Southwest: Ashtyn Berry, W.R. Odell Elementary (Cabarrus County Schools) 
  • Northwest: Ashley Bandy, Newton-Conover High (Newton-Conover City Schools) 
  • West: Ryan Mitchell, Mills River Elementary (Henderson County Public Schools) 
  • Charter Schools: Keegan Storrs, Roxboro Community School
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