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Teacher of the Year

Sophia Uhlmann, Lead Staff Writer

Mrs. Butler:

“Why did you become a teacher?”

“I became a teacher because I felt like I would be good at it. I did not graduate from college and go straight into education, I did a lot of other things. I worked at Duke in the medical field and, especially at Duke, I oftentimes had to train other people. I had to train residents and medical school students how to operate in the lab and I felt like I had a gift for it. Then, the more I thought about it,  the more I realized that we needed good teachers and that I could be one, so I went for it.

“What do you enjoy most about teaching at West and have you taught anywhere else before coming here?”

“I taught at Gramercy, the Christian school, but I have not taught outside of Carteret County. I taught all the sciences there, not only Chemistry, from 7th grade to 12th grade. For the 7th grade, I definitely didn’t teach Chemistry as detailed as I do now because I had just gotten into the teaching field and I had been out of college for several years, so I had to really go back and remember the concepts. Now, I’ve been teaching for 25 years so I know more than I did when I first started like most teachers. What I enjoy most about teaching at West is the students. We have a great student body and our students have hearts. You all come from good hardworking families and you’re good people.

“What accomplishment are you most proud of as a teacher?”

“I was proud when I got my masters that I had reached that level of education and also this Morehead-Cain Award Impact educator award. Honestly,  I wasn’t even aware of it, and I got a letter from our Congressmen Dr. Gregg Murphy and I can’t tell you how many people in the community have said congratulations and I was amazed that they knew about it. Morehead-Cain is very prestigious and I respect this honor, I really do, and the student that mentioned me in order for me to get this honor.

“Who has inspired you most in your life and how?”

“I would have to say my cousin. She is an English teacher, she retired from here, and she now teaches at the community college, but she’s older than me so she has been in education longer. She’s very practical and I think my style of teaching is a lot because of her. Throughout the years when I’ve had trouble, whether it be with classroom management or a student, I can go to her and she can really put it in perspective for me.

“What would you like to tell the students who read this article about yourself?”

“That I appreciate what they do and who they are to me and I am grateful to be a part of their journey towards knowledge and success.”

“I know chemistry is one of the most challenging subjects there is. What do you feel makes you so successful at teaching it?”

“Sometimes silly stories. Cashion and Anyen, you know when we talk about Cations and Anions, I always tell the story about students mispronounced it and called it Cashion and Anyen and I still have students that are coming to me, and they know better, but they say something about Cashions and Anyens. They’ll remember. Oftentimes I think it’s silly stories that help get the point across. I think being able to get up and move and do things helps students learn a little bit better instead of sitting there and just listening to me just talk and lecture. 

My style of teaching is structured, but yet it’s  flexible and I think students learn better. One thing that I’ve heard several students talk about at the school board meetings recently was that in SLA students are taught that it’s ok to fail.  I think a lot of students come  into Chemistry, having made A’s in their science classes up to that point, and it's almost a shock for them not to make an A. I think as a student works with me throughout the semester, they figure out that that’s ok, instead of sulking, as what they’ve got to do is to figure out that their way doesn’t work anymore and they have to figure out a way that does work. I think that certainly has a great deal  to do with the success that I have and Ms. Kyle. It’s ok to fail, but you have  to learn, as Ms. Kyle says,  how to be a chemistry student. That  means answers aren’t always black and white, you have to understand, you have to problem solve, and have to think. We don’t come in here thinking, but hopefully when we leave, we are.``

Mrs. Mayo:

“Were you excited to be nominated?”

“I was thrilled to be nominated, and it's an honor to be recognized for the work I do with the Scholastic Leader Academy. It's an exciting opportunity to guide high-achieving students on their journey toward success in high school and beyond.”

“I know you are a librarian, but you were nominated for a teaching award. A lot of students don’t realize librarians are always teaching students too. Can you talk a little bit about how you help teach students different skills?”

“Regarding the teaching award nomination, you're absolutely right. Librarians wear many hats, and teaching is a significant part of what we do. As a librarian, I focus on imparting various skills to students, such as information literacy, research techniques, and effective use of technology. Beyond that through the SLA, I aim to instill a love for learning and help students with skills like servant leadership, time management, dealing with stress, and more that are invaluable both in academics and life.”

“What’s the most rewarding part of being a librarian at a high school?”

“The most rewarding aspect of being a high school librarian is witnessing the growth of students. When I see them develop their passions, achieve their academic goals, or do something amazing for our community, it's truly fulfilling. Being a part of their academic journey and contributing to their success is incredibly gratifying.”

“What is the most challenging part about being a librarian?”

“The most challenging part of being a librarian at West is undoubtedly the need to balance a myriad of responsibilities. From managing the integration of technology like Chromebooks into our learning environment to collaborating with the Student Government Association (SGA) on various initiatives, it's a juggling act. Supporting and overseeing student projects adds another layer of complexity. Ensuring that each student gets the attention they deserve can be quite demanding. The dynamic nature of these challenges keeps me on my toes, but it's also what makes the role so engaging and rewarding. It's a constant learning experience, and I strive to adapt and grow alongside the ever-evolving needs of our students and the school community.”

“What do you enjoy most about being at West?”

“My biological family all work and go to WCHS; but my patriot family at West is equally special to me. What I cherish most about being at West is the incredible sense of community and the unwavering dedication of both our exceptional students and faculty. Honestly, my journey toward this award was shaped by the privilege of working with and sharing my knowledge with these amazing students. Having been part of the West family for 23 years, I've witnessed some amazing student leaders and teachers! The camaraderie that being a part of the Patriot family makes my role as a librarian and advisor even more meaningful and fulfilling.”

Mrs. Butler and Mrs. Mayo are certainly two wonderful people that we are lucky to have here at West with us, and we’re thrilled that they were recognized for all that they do. We should be sure to show them and our other faculty members our appreciation for their hard work and dedication towards making West Carteret the great school it is!

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