Overton Elementary's Pierce is Teacher of Year
By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Theresa Pierce borrowed a famous line from baseball legend Lou Gehrig to describe how being named the Rowan-Salisbury Teacher of the Year made her feel Friday.
The curriculum coach from Overton Elementary said she felt like Gehrig, who called himself the “luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Pierce received star treatment when she arrived back at Overton after the announcement.
The entire student body cheered as she stepped out of her car onto a makeshift red carpet.
“This is great because the kids are the reason I do what I do,” Pierce said. “I believe that the teacher is the single most important ingredient in education because if you have a good teacher you are inspired, you are encouraged and you want to excel.”
Overton Principal Betty Tunks said there couldn’t be a more deserving person. “She is wonderful,” Tunks said. “Her love of children comes across in everything she does.”
Tunks said Pierce brings learning to life for her students by doing everything from portraying characters from history or having them act out different phases of the water cycle.
“She’s very hands-on and engaging,” she said.
Jeanie Moore, vice president of continuing education at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and a member of the Teacher of the Year selection committee, said when Pierce walked into the room for her interview Moore could tell she was a “born teacher.”
“Her passion and enthusiasm are so clear,” she said. “It was amazing to see the love she exudes and how excited she is to go to work every day.”
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Pierce said she was shocked to learn she had beaten out 34 of her colleagues for the title of Teacher of the Year.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
She said she was rooting for West Rowan High band teacher Daniel Trivette, who she has known since he was a child.
“I think Daniel deserves this award because he’s just a great guy, making a difference in the lives of children every day,” Pierce said.
After winning the award Friday, she said she was ready to get back to Overton to teach.
“There is work to be done,” Pierce said.
Pierce called working with children the “greatest privilege in the world,” and shared an experience she had just last week.
Before administering the end-of-grade test last week she asked children to imagine themselves in a happy place.
“The children went around the room and named places like the Great Wolf Lodge or Carowinds or the mall and this one little boy named Elijah said ‘here,’ ” she said. “I was so thrilled that Overton Elementary was his happy place.
“For so many children it is because they get fed, they get loved and they get their needs met.”
Tunks said Pierce greets students every morning as they come through the front doors.
“She knows every child in the school,” Tunks said. “She starts their day off smiling and with hugs,” she said.
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The Teacher of the Year from each of the district’s 35 schools was honored Friday during a breakfast at the Holiday Inn.
The event was sponsored by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said the teachers on hand Friday represent the “best of the best.”
“This is one of my most favorite events of the entire year because it is an opportunity to recognize each of our teachers and thank them for what they do for our students each and every day,” she said. “There is something very important that makes a difference between a good teacher and a great teacher, and that something comes to a child from the heart of a teacher.”
Through a recorded message, Julie Stolze, the school system’s 2009-10 Teacher of the Year, told the teachers to consider their sphere of influence.
“I’d like to ask you to consider your legacy as a model teacher at your school,” she said.
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Pierce, certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, will move on to compete for regional Teacher of the Year.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from East Carolina University and a master’s in education from Catawba College.
Pierce has been working in the Rowan-Salisbury School System for more than 17 years, serving as a curriculum coach at Woodleaf and Shive elementary schools, a classroom teacher at Morgan and Granite Quarry elementary schools and history specialist at Horizons Unlimited.
She volunteers at the Old Stone House and the Rowan Museum.
Pierce was presented with a $1,000 stipend from the Chamber of Commerce. She also received $1,000, a laptop and a printer from the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.
Phillip Kirk, former chairman of the state Board of Education, presented Pierce with the Phillip J. Kirk Jr. Honored Educator Scholarship to attend a five-day seminar hosted by the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching.
Trivette received a gift certificate donated by Creative Teaching Aids.
He is the band teacher at West Rowan High. He holds a bachelor’s in education from Western Carolina University.
Other finalists included:
• Jason Harwood — music teacher at Rockwell Elementary.
• Sallie Hundley — math teacher at North Rowan High.
• Sherry Tarner — sixth-grade language arts teacher at Southeast Middle.
Each winner received a mug from the chamber filled with items donated from Office Depot, a tote bag from Office Depot and a day trip to Greystone Salon & Spa.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.