The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

August 21, 2013

Strother named 'Teacher of the Year'



TARBORO — And the Teacher of the Year is … Billy Strother.

Superintendent John Farrelly made that announcement at Edgecombe County Public Schools Convocation 2013 Tuesday morning in the gymnasium of Tarboro High School and presented Strother with a $1,000 check. Strother is a health/ PE teacher at Martin Middle School.

“Of course, it’s overwhelming,” said Strother, of being named Teacher of the Year. “It’s just a blessing, a privilege and an honor.”

Strother has 14 years of experience in ECPS, counting student teaching and coaching. He shared his educational philosophy:

“To provide each kid with hope, a hope for a better tomorrow, for a future that’s brighter than today, and to leave a lasting impression that will lead to happiness and prosperity for every student.”

As Strother looked around the gymnasium at all of the “great teachers” in the county, he was left with a positive feeling about the upcoming school year, which begins Monday.

“Like Mr. Farrelly said, collectively, we can all make such a difference,” Strother said.

Strother was selected from the group of 14 teachers who were named teacher of the year at their respective schools. Dr. Valerie Bridges, assistant superintendent, shared a few words about each teacher and Farrelly shook their hands.

Tuesday’s event started with a song “We take care of our own” blasting from the speakers. As the room darkened and strobe lights illuminated the gym, the educators gathered there began to applaud.

Farrelly repeated the phrase, “We take care of our own,” and introduced the staff from each school, clad in shirts with their school colors on them. The theme of the pep rally type event was inspiring teachers to be the best they could be this school year.

Associate Superintendent Karen Dameron recognized the new ECPS team members in the room and encouraged them to be “great leaders,” joining the other great leaders in the district.

“We’d like to welcome you all to the best school district in North Carolina,” Dameron said. “Let us make a conscious choice to give them (students) our best every day.”

Ann Kent, chair of the board of education, has some words of advice for the educators, as well. She asked them to close their eyes and envision the teacher who made a difference in their life. For Kent, that role model was Patsy White, her high-school biology teacher, who taught her to “be prepared” and “make learning fun.”

“Be prepared, do your best, love your students, have high expectations,” Kent advised the educators. “I want you to become that classroom leader this year. You could be the Patsy White of the next generation of teachers.”

The crowd stood up and applauded loudly as Lee Hall, retired ECPS superintendent, took the podium. He said he felt “wonderful,” because of the joyful atmosphere of the event.

“I doubt there’s ever been a superintendent on the 20th anniversary of his retirement have the superintendent throw a party for him like this,” he joked.

He recalled the phrase he used to use when addressing teachers at the start of the school year:

“This is going to be our best year ever.”

“What do I expect from you? What do the students want from you?” Hall used to ask. “They want the best teaching ever, the best love ever, the best compassion ever, and we’re going to end up with the best year ever.”

After Hall’s speech, Farrelly took the podium once again and talked about the vision for ECPS: “Focused, Connected, Ready.”

“We’re focused on meeting the needs of all children,” he said. “We’re connected … We’re ready to take strides to be the best school system in North Carolina.”

Farrelly asked the teachers and administrators to focus on one word that he expects from every ECPS team member this school year – “growth” – in relationships, in customer service, and in instruction and delivery.

“I am convinced, ladies and gentlemen, that we can achieve our dreams in this county. It is a calling for us.”