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Marvin Ridge High teacher Dareion Malone named 2020-2021 UCPS Teacher of the Year

UCPS Teacher of the Year Every time Marvin Ridge High choral teacher Dareion Malone touches a piano, he thinks of his grandmother and the sacrifices she made to ensure he had a music education.

She was at the forefront of his mind the first time he walked through the doors of Marvin Ridge High four years ago. She remained in his thoughts as the high school’s choral program nearly quadrupled under his leadership, growing from 46 students to 180 students in only a few short years.

So on May 6, when Malone heard his name announced as the 2020-2021 UCPS Teacher of the Year, he couldn’t help but think about his grandmother once again.

“When I heard my name, I was in disbelief but I was also extremely happy. I just kept my grandmother in my mind because I’m still living through the sacrifices that she made,” he said. “There are so many phenomenal educators and Teacher of the Year finalists, it could have literally been any one of us. I’m just extremely excited and humbled.”

Due to COVID-19, UCPS was unable to hold its annual Teacher of the Year banquet. Instead, a virtual ceremony was livestreamed to the district’s Facebook page. The 10 UCPS Teacher of the Year finalists, their principals, UCPS leadership, Board of Education members and Union County Education Foundation Executive Director Amy Sperry attended the celebration.

A graduate of Rust College and UNC Charlotte, Malone has been an educator since 2013. In his classroom, Malone encourages his students to become globally aware, self-motivated, accomplished musicians. He also helps students sharpen their leadership skills by giving them a voice in their own learning experience and music curriculum.

“At the end of the day, we’re educating but we also want to give them tools they can use in life,” he said.

Malone’s ability to connect with all students, regardless of their background or musical abilities, has allowed him to form bonds with students that have not ended during the school closure. He continues to hold class conferences and is overjoyed every time he sees their faces, even if he can only see them through virtually.

When asked if there is one lesson that he wants the students to take away from their time in his class, Malone said it would be for them to continue to choose the best version of themselves.

“When faced with hard circumstances, I want them to always think of the best response to what they’re facing,” he said. “Not the best reaction, but the best response – I always want them to choose the best version of themselves.”

For winning the countywide Teacher of the Year title, the Union County Education Foundation will also award Malone $1,000 for his personal use. Additionally, Malone will now represent UCPS in the regional Teacher of the Year program.

Posted: May 6, 2020