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By Shavonne Potts
spotts@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — “I love what I do.”
Those five words express the excitement of newly named Rowan-Salisbury Teacher of the Year Sakinah Riley.
Riley, who teaches at Salisbury High School, was recognized Friday morning at the Rowan-Salisbury School System breakfast.
West Rowan High agriculture teacher Jason Chester was named runner-up.
The breakfast, a Rowan County Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event, was held at Holiday Inn of Salisbury.
“This is one of my favorite times of the year,” said Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom. “It gives us an opportunity to recognize the best of the best.”
Riley did what she told her students she wouldn’t do — cried upon hearing her name called.
She said being a teacher means being superhuman.
The effect a teacher has on a student is very powerful.
“How can we not accept the charge from our students, our administration and our community except that we are superhuman,” she said.
Riley said she is a culmination of everyone who affected her life from teachers to students and family.
“I love it. I embrace it,” she said.
Riley said her father, Abdul Kareem Shakoor, a jewelry craftsman, was her first teacher. Her mother, Aneesah, owned a clothing boutique.
“She taught me poise,” Riley said.
And her husband Darren, she said, taught her compassion.
The couple have two children, Jasmine Spruill, 8, and Keshaun Riley, 4.
As the school system’s teacher of the year, Riley received a $1,000 stipend from the chamber to use for her school or classroom. The school system gave Riley a laptop, a printer and a check for $1,000.
She also received the Phillip J. Kirk Jr. Honored Educator Scholarship, which covers the cost of a five-day teaching seminar.
The finalists were asked to submit a video tour of their classrooms in conjunction with their portfolio and interview. Chester’s and Riley’s videos, which were part of a new component of the selection process, were shown at the breakfast.
“It’s a great honor that our peers trust us enough to be teacher of the year. Hopefully it reflects on our ability to do a good job for our students,” said Chester.
As the runner-up, Chester received a gift certificate from Dr. Alan King, co-owner of Creative Teaching Aids.
Last year’s teacher of the year, Theresa Pierce, jokingly advised the winner to be prepared for strangers to approach because “they feel like they know you.”
Pierce recalled how she spent some of the money she was given, including giving a student who’d outgrown his soccer shoes some new ones.
The other finalists for teacher of the year were: Jennifer Lambert, China Grove Elementary; Katherine Mauzy, Faith Elementary; and Melanie Ferguson, Millbridge Elementary.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.

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