Published 12:00 am Friday, May 31, 2013

SALISBURY — Alex Reynolds says he and other teachers get to affect people’s lives when they go to work, “and that’s awesome.”
Reynolds, a drama teacher at Carson High School, was announced as the Rowan-Salisbury School System 2013 Teacher of the Year at a breakfast ceremony Friday morning.
“This is an honor, because I live and work in a place I love,” he said. “Teaching is my life and my life’s work, and I thank God for the privilege to be among you.”
Reynolds will receive a $1,000 stipend for his school or classroom from the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, a $1,000 check from the Rowan-Salisbury School System, an iPad and a printer.
Pamela Rutherford, who teaches fourth grade at Overton Elementary School, was named as the runner-up. She will get a gift certificate to Creative Teaching Aids from Dr. Alan King.
“I want to say how honored I am,” she said. “It’s amazing to just be a part of this group.”
Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom said the annual 2013 Teacher of the Year Breakfast, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, is one of her favorite events of the year.
“It’s always so special to me to have the time and opportunity to recognize our outstanding teachers, and we certainly never do that enough,” Grissom said.
Friday morning’s ceremony at the Holiday Inn recognized the 35 Teachers of the Year from each school in the district.
Six finalists for the district-wide title were asked to submit a video tour of their classrooms, and the videos Reynolds and Rutherford made were shown during the breakfast. Reynolds’ showed him leading his students through vocal warm-ups, acting exercises and play rehearsals, all with unbridled enthusiasm.
“I think that it is hard to be a teacher some days, but the people who do it best — these people here — they give their lives and their hearts to it,” he said.
He said it can be easier to give in to negativity than to stand up to it, easier to complain than to praise and “easier to drift downstream than to swim against the current.”
Reynolds described a game that his theater students play. When they suspect someone is exaggerating feelings or being over-dramatic, they say “be real” and that person must now tell the truth.
If a student says he would rather eat toenails than go back to math class, when he is met with a skeptical “be real,” he has to admit that he’d actually prefer the math class.
“I was thinking how nice it would be if we could be real, maybe, in the teacher’s lounge sometimes,” Reynolds said. “When a teacher says, ‘If I have to proctor one more EOG, I will quit,’ you look at them and go, ‘Be real.’ … ‘No, teaching is my life. I couldn’t do anything else.’ ”
Last year’s winner, Sakinah Riley, also spoke at the breakfast about her experiences as the 2012 Teacher of the Year. She said visited a number of schools throughout the district, sharing effective strategies with other teachers. She also got to talk with state government leaders about important education issues.
“Throughout my journey, I have worn my title proudly. I remembered that I was 1,000 teachers strong, and that it was my duty to be courageous, confident, curious and creative,” Riley said. “When I reflect on this past year, I grin from ear to ear.”
The other finalists for the 2013 Teacher of the Year were Rosemarie Snow from Bostian Elementary School, Cynthia Adkins from East Rowan High School, Cindy Martin from Millbridge Elementary School and Meredith Abramson from the Rowan County Early College high school.

Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.