UNCP offers 'A
Salute to Teaching Excellence'
By Scott Bigelow
teachers honored - From left: Felicia Hunt, Robeson County Teacher
of the Year, Brian Freeman, NEA National Teaching Excellence Award,
Kay Thompson, Brunswick County Teacher of the Year and Jamie Brown,
Moore County Teacher of the Year. All are UNCP graduates.
The stars came out
March 16 at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Four outstanding
teachers from the region - all UNCP graduates - were honored with a
"Salute to Teaching Excellence."
Three of the alumni
educators recently earned county, regional and/or state distinctions.
The University presented them with engraved golden apples to honor their
achievements in the teaching profession.
- Jamie Darian
Brown, a 1998 UNCP graduate, is the North Moore High School and Moore
County Teacher of the Year. Brown, a Teaching Fellow, is a language
arts and writing teacher.
- Felicia Hunt,
a 1988 graduate, is the Teacher of the Year for Purnell Swett High
School and Robeson County. Hunt has been a marketing teacher at Purnell
Swett High School since 1995.
- Kay Thompson,
a 1989 graduate, is the Brunswick County Teacher of the Year and North
Carolina Regional Teacher of the Year. Thompson teaches fifth grade
at Waccamaw Elementary School.
Guest of honor was
Tommy O'Briant (Brian) Freeman, winner of the National Education Association's
(NEA) 2003 National Teaching Excellence Award. A 1992 UNCP graduate,
Freeman teaches second grade at Peterson Elementary School in Red Springs.
a "Star Polisher" Award from UNCP to honor his work in preparing
young students for the challenges ahead.
C. Meadors welcomed the guests of honor.
of our School of Education, and tonight you see why," Chancellor
Meadors said. "We're extremely proud of Brian, he's one in 2.7
UNCP offers teacher candidates the best preparation in the state of
North Carolina," Dr. Meadors said. "Our teachers are more
successful in the classroom as these four great teachers clearly demonstrate."
for the NEA award with 2.7 million other teachers, who belong to the
nation's largest teacher association. He is the first UNCP graduate
to win the award.
"I am the first
male elementary school teacher to win the NEA's top award and the first
teacher from a rural area to win it," he said. "I believe
it is not the wealth of the school system that makes a difference. What
makes the difference in the classroom is a teacher who cares about children."
A NEA produced video
about Freeman, gave lively testimony to a dedicated and extraordinarily
creative teacher. In various colorful costumes, Freeman was shown teaching
and entertaining a classroom of attentive students. As one of his students
said, "He is the boss with the hot sauce."
Freeman cares about
his students, said Peterson Elementary Principal Penney Gibson. "He
didn't miss any of the baseball games of his students last year."
should be fun and magical," Freeman said. "Too often education
is an obstacle to success for children."
It's not all fun,
Freeman said in a serious moment. "In the classroom, I am the boss."
The NEA National
Teaching Excellence Award is one of many awards Freeman has won. Twice
he was named one of USA Today's Top 40 Teachers of the Year. He was
named national Second Grade Teacher of the Year. He also won North Carolina
NEA's top teaching award, the Terry Sanford Award for Creativity in
Teaching and Administration.
Freeman, a National
Board Certified teacher, earned a master's degree in education from
UNCP. He also is an elected member of the Red Springs City Council.
for Student Affairs Dr. Diane Jones remembered Freeman as an energetic
student leader as an undergraduate.
as president of the Student Government Association, it was a fun year,"
Dr. Jones said. "You saw Brian everywhere on campus. He was very
involved in campus activities."
Freeman shared some
of his memories of UNCP.
"One of the
reasons that UNCP is so successful is the commitment and dedication
of its professors and administrators," Freeman said. "I want
to be just that dedicated and committed to education."
He singled out School
of Education professors, Dr. Sharon Sharpe and Dr. Swanee Dixon, who
were in the audience, as outstanding role models.
UNCP's Salute to
Teaching Excellence was created to award individuals who have been shining
stars in a very challenging profession, said Provost and Vice Chancellor
for Academic Affairs Dr. Roger Brown.
"As a former
classroom teacher myself, I honor those who do the most critical work
in our society," Dr. Brown said.
On behalf of the
School of Education, Dean Warren Baker said, "It gives us all a
good feeling to know that all over the region we have graduates who
are reaping awards like this."
UNCP's Offices of
Alumni Relations and Donor Relations in the Office of Advancement sponsored
the Salute to Teaching Excellence.
Director of Donor Relations, said Freeman used part of his award money
to create a scholarship at UNCP.
"He said he
wanted to do something to give back to this University," Oxendine
said. "So, he established the Brian Freeman Endowed Scholarship
for Teaching Excellence."
to University Newswire