Return to Headlines

UCPS announces 2021 Teacher of the Year finalists

Each year, Union County Public Schools (UCPS) recognizes a teacher who has not only shown dedication and capacity to inspire students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn, but also establishes an environment that is in line with the pursuit and achievement of academic excellence.

Ten UCPS Teacher of the Year finalists have been selected from a pool of 53 school-wide Teachers of the Year.

On Feb. 10, UCPS Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan, senior leaders, and Board of Education members revealed the names of the 10 UCPS Teacher of the Year finalists by surprising the teachers at their schools. The winner will be announced this spring in a virtual celebration.

Congratulations to the following Teacher of the Year finalists:

Kerry Long - Cuthbertson Middle School

Kerry Long is a math teacher at Cuthbertson Middle School. A graduate of Appalachian State University, she has been an educator since 1996. In her classroom, Kerry is passionate about creating a positive learning environment that promotes collaboration, confidence, and growth in her students.

Yaronda Kilgo - East Elementary School

Yaronda Kilgo is a kindergarten teacher at East Elementary School. A graduate of Belmont Abbey College and Grand Canyon University and Monroe High School, she has been an educator since 2017. Yaronda also attended East Elementary and Monroe Junior High School. In her classroom, Yaronda creates a student-centered data-driven lessons that follow a multi-tiered system of support while connecting content across multiple subjects. “I can’t believe it. I would have never thought that being here in elementary school, that I would be a ‘Teacher of the Year’ here,” said Yaronda.

Justin Jones - Marvin Ridge High School

Justin Jones is a social studies teacher at Marvin Ridge High School. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Arkansas State University, he has been an educator since 2007. In his classroom, Justin believes education is one of the fundamental components of a free society and strives every day to provide an environment based on mutual respect where learning is encouraged.

Matthew Sams - Marvin Ridge Middle School

Matthew Sams is a social studies teacher at Marvin Ridge Middle School. A graduate of Montgomery College, the University of Maryland, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, he has been an educator since 2006. In his classroom, Matthew’s goals are to lead by example through educating and mentoring students.

Amanda Starnes - Piedmont High School

Amanda Starnes is a science teacher at Piedmont High School. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Piedmont High School, she has been an educator since 2008. In her classroom, Amanda strives to create an environment for students that promotes intellectual learning and encourages her students to participate in their learning experience. “It’s a tremendous honor to work with all the people that shaped me, and to be recognized at all is truly special,” said Amanda about working at Piedmont High School and being nominated.

Hannah Park - Porter Ridge Elementary School

Hannah Park is third grade teacher at Porter Ridge Elementary School. A graduate of Pfeiffer University, she has been an educator since 2016. In her classroom, Hannah provides research based teaching and learning in a safe, virtual space while facilitating virtual classroom sessions with small groups of students - balance with self-paced opportunities for acceleration in key content areas.

Nicole Darko - Porter Ridge Middle School

Nicole Darko is a language arts teacher at Porter Ridge Middle School. A graduate of Fayetteville State University and Liberty University, she has been an educator since 2001. In her classroom, Nicole implements readers and writers workshops as an effective framework for instruction. “I am overwhelmed. I feel so honored, especially with just coming to Porter Ridge last year,” said Nicole about being nominated. “So for my colleagues to even nominate me, I feel really blessed and honored.”

Krista James - Rock Rest Elementary School

Krista James is an ESL teacher at Rock Rest Elementary School. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she has been an educator since 2004. In her classroom, she references data collected daily to better understand her student’s daily needs. “The students are the curriculum, and the students tell me what they need next. Sitting down and having conversations with them about what their reading, and what they’re doing as a learner tells me what they need next,” said Krista about her day with students.

Susan Winfree - Weddington High School

Susan Winfree is a science teacher at Weddington High School. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she has been an educator since 2011. In her classroom, Susan has developed a curriculum that not only challenges but empowers and engages her students daily. “It is such an honor to be nominated with people who are such amazing educators,” said Winfree about being nominated.  

Natalie Lundin - Weddington Middle School

Natalie Lundin is a visual arts teacher at Weddington Middle School. Before graduating from Appalachian State University, Natalie attended Weddington Elementary, Weddington Middle, and Weddington High. She has been an educator since 2013. In her classroom, Natalie daily provides a creative space for students to tap into their artistic side. “Those little moments when you can tell that you’ve really resonated on an individual and personal level with them, I think those are the highlights for me,” said Natalie about teaching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published February 10, 2021