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More than 1,000 students and staff members crammed into Carson High School’s gym Wednesday afternoon — they were told — to meet the new Rowan-Salisbury School System superintendent, Dr. Lynn Moody.

But there was another purpose.

Moody teamed up with Santa and Karyn Collie Dickerson, the 2012-13 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, to surprise Alex Reynolds, Carson’s drama teacher and Rowan County’s teacher of the year, with the news that he had been selected as the regional teacher of the year.

“It’s incredibly important to have good models. Teachers look for good examples. To have a regional teacher of the year is important for the entire district.”

Reynolds was asked to open the assembly. He made a few remarks, then Moody took the stage to talk to the students. She was interrupted by Santa, who presented her with a gift and a card.

The card announced that Dickerson was there to make a special announcement. Dickerson took the stage and announced that Reynolds had been selected as Regional Teacher of the Year.

Not only did Dickerson make the trip to Carson High School to surprise Reynolds, but his family and several influential people from his life, including his high school drama teacher and first principal, made an appearance as well.

“It feels awesome. It feels surreal,” Reynolds said after he was presented with the honor. “Seeing the people from different phases of my life, the person that taught me to teach, my first principal — I mean, my whole family. It’s awesome.”

Reynolds learned that he was Rowan County’s Teacher of the Year in May at an annual breakfast sponsored by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce. He was selected from five finalists.

Reynolds competed against teachers from each of the 19 school systems represented in the northwest region of the state, including Wilkes, Yadkin and Iredell counties. He submitted a portfolio and was interviewed by a regional committee.

He won $5,000.

According to Regional Education Facilitator Dr. Monica Shepherd, Reynolds will undergo “another series of evaluations, both spoken and written” to be considered for North Carolina Teacher of the Year.

The State Teacher of the Year award will be announced at a banquet in Raleigh in April.

“I am confident that he’ll win,” Moody said.

Regional teachers of the year are committed to serve on an education committee for two years. The state teacher of the year does a lot of traveling and serves as a liaison to the state Board of Education.

“When you take it to the next level, it’s nice for them to be recognized,” said Carson Principal Kelly Withers. “He represents the hard work that all our teachers do.”

This is Reynolds’ sixth year working as the drama teacher at Carson High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in theater education from University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“He changes lives. He recognizes potential in students,” Withers said. “He makes them stars.”

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