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NC teacher of the year visits Rowan County Early College’s Pierce

SALISBURY — Rowan County and the state’s best came together on Friday at Rowan County Early College.

N.C. Teacher of the Year Mariah Morris visited Rowan-Salisbury Schools Teacher of the Year Theresa Pierce and her class. She drove to a meeting with Gov. Roy Cooper in Raleigh immediately after she finished a talk for some of the students at the early college.

The state award comes with some special responsibilities. Morris is the state teacher of the year until mid-July and is traveling to schools and events all over the state until then. Morris is a second grade teacher at West Pine Elementary School in Pinehurst, where she will return after her tour as teacher of the year end.

Morris spends her days traveling the state, meeting teachers and going to schools. She lost count of how many she has visited since she began her tour last year, but she is not exhausted by the constant traveling either. 

“I love it,” Morris said.

Pierce, a history teacher and two-time Rowan-Salisbury Schools teacher of the year, said she connected with Morris via social media and asked her to come visit her class.

Pierce has a state map in her classroom large enough to cover the floor of her classroom. It’s also large enough to walk on, and the students used the map to teach Morris a lesson about different places in the state with historical significance.

Morris said the kinesthetic learning — where students carry out physical activities rather than listening to a lecture — using the map was an opportunity to bring learning to life for students and an example of how Pierce takes learning off of the page. The lesson included map skills, research, artistic representations and having the students teach the teachers. Morris said she would bring those ideas back to her own classroom.

Pierce invited Morris to the school and said there is no doubt in her mind why she is the state’s teacher of the year.

“She’s amazing,” Pierce said. “Her enthusiasm and hearing her stories when she was in the classroom, every time we were doing something with the map she had a connection. You could just tell that the kids just immediately connected with her.”

Caleb Shell, a ninth-grader and one of Pierce’s students, said Morris was engaging with students. 

“She was saying how there are skills other than mathematics, reading and English and stuff like that, but also communication and empathy,” Shell said.

Shell does not know exactly what he wants to do when he gets out of school, but he is interested in engineering.

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