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Lenoir County Public Schools: Schools

LCPS Teacher of Year search narrowed to three finalists

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Three LCPS teachers from different backgrounds working different assignments have this in common: they are finalists in the search for LCPS Teacher of the Year for 2017-2018.

A panel of judges who interviewed each school’s Teacher of the Year on Wednesday named Maria Johnson of Banks Elementary School, Sabrina Martiello of Kinston High School and Jennifer McLawhorn of Pink Hill Elementary School as the three teachers who will continue in the competition.

“The quality of each Teacher of the Year chosen by our schools ensured that our three finalists would be an exceptional group,” said Robin Roberson, LCPS human resources director, who organizes the LCPS Teacher of the Year award process. “Any one of the three would be a strong representative of the direction the district is moving and the effort our teachers make on behalf of students.”

Johnson, a native of Kinston who grew up in Greenville, teaches kindergarten at Banks Elementary, where she joined the faculty in 2013. Previously, she taught first grade for a year in Littleton and was a student teacher at a primary school in Swadesi, South Africa, as part of a program offered through UNC-Wilmington, where Johnson graduated in 20011 with a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education.

She also holds a master of education degree in elementary education and a master’s of school administration degree, both from East Carolina University. At Banks, she is the school improvement team process manager and leader of a program that assists beginning teachers.

A strong proponent of digital learning, Johnson is a leader in related professional development and her students have given glimpses of their digital skills to the local school board, to school superintendents from the region and to former governor Bev Perdue, who recently toured Banks.

Martiello, a native of Florida, came to Kinston through the Teach for America program and stayed past her two-year commitment period to teach English at Kinston High, where she’s been for four years. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Florida.

She is a mentor teacher at KHS, a member of the school improvement team, yearbook advisor and active in a host of extracurricular activities at her school. She has coached women’s varsity soccer and tennis. She is the founder and advisor of Kinston Leadership Team, a summer leadership program active since 2014.

She is a leader of the district’s Literacy Design Collaborative, which develops resources for literacy instruction. She is scheduled to present from her work this summer at the Southern Regional Education Board’s College and Career Readiness Standards Networking Conference in Nashville, Tenn., and at the Southeast Education Alliance Foundation’s SEA Summit in Swansboro.

McLawhorn teachers first grade at Pink Hill Elementary, where she has worked since 1999. A Lenoir County native and a product of its public schools, she earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Campbell University in 1999, graduating magna cum laude, and has since earned National Board Certification, as well as certification as a reading recovery teacher, as a teacher of academically or intellectually gifted students and as a clinical teacher.

She is an active and successful grant writer for her school, a Youth Council member and Mary’s Kitchen volunteer for her church.

A school improvement team leader and grade level chairperson, McLawhorn was also named Pink Hill’s Teacher of the Year for 2003-2004. For the past year, she has taught in the English Language Adult Learners program at Lenoir Community College.

The three finalists were selected by a five-person panel of current and former LCPS employees, including the current Teacher of the Year Alicia Stanley. The judges interviewed each school’s Teacher of the Year and considered her resume and an essay each wrote on what she considered the major issue facing public education today.

The judges will observe each finalist in her classroom next month before selecting the district’s Teacher of the Year.

The winner will be announced at the district’s annual Teacher of the Year banquet on April 27. The district will also announce its Principal of the Year then.

In the past, both honors have been announced in the fall. The schedule was changed to better fit with the schedule for regional and state competitions for both principals and teachers, according to Roberson.

Selected by their school as Teacher of the Year, in addition to the three finalists, are: Tiffanie Chase, South Lenoir High School; Sabrina Goodall, Teachers Memorial Pre-K; Letita Joyner, Lenoir County Learning Academy; Vashawn Daniels, Rochelle Middle School; Jennifer Bell, Southeast Elementary School; Christy Groves, Northwest Elementary School; Caroline Murphrey, Southwood Elementary School; Jessica Jones, Woodington Middle School; Susan Hines, Lenoir County Early College; Sara Pennington, Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School; Melanie McCoy, Northeast Elementary School; Nineva Jefferson, North Lenoir High School; Millicent Sanderson, Moss Hill Elementary School; Suzanna Moye, Frink Middle School and Gwen Smith, La Grange Elementary School.


Last Updated on Friday, 24 March 2017 15:46

All-County Honors Chorus set for fourth annual concert

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More than 200 elementary and middle school students from across Lenoir County will assemble Saturday as the LCPS All-County Honors Chorus to perform a free concert of classical and contemporary art music.

The fourth annual event begins at 2 p.m. at Kinston-Lenoir County Performing Arts Center.

The chorus represents students from all 12 LCPS elementary and middle schools. The fourth and fifth graders who make up the elementary group will perform four songs, as will the middle school students. The two groups come together for the finale, a spirited rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The students have practiced at their school for months, but will unite as an elementary chorus and a middle school chorus for the first time the day before the concert, when they will also meet and begin to work with their respective conductors. The two groups rehearse together the morning of the concert.

Conducting the elementary group this year is Dr. Raychl Smith, assistant professor of music education at East Carolina University. The middle school singers will perform under the baton of Paul Flowers, choral director at Hope Middle School in Pitt County.

Returning as accompanists are Sheila Miller, music teacher at Pink Hill Elementary, and Jacob Mewborn, director of music ministries at Queen Street United Methodist Church in Kinston. Both have worked with the concert as accompanists – Miller with the elementary group and Mewborn with the middle schoolers – since its inception.

For the young singers, it’s an experience draped in professionalism.

“Organizing this concert each year is in some ways a dream come true for me,” Christine White, music educator at Banks Elementary School, said. “It is extremely fulfilling as an educator to know that I can reach beyond the four walls of my classroom and impact the musical opportunities of students all across our county.”

White was part of that corps of LCPS music educators that conceived and organized the inaugural concert four years ago and has taken a lead role in ensuring the performances continued.

“It is definitely an extraordinary amount of work, but I receive a great deal of support and assistance from Lenoir County Public Schools’ administrative team and my music education colleagues,” she said. “Together we are providing a broadening and enriching experience for our students that they would not otherwise have.”


Last Updated on Friday, 24 March 2017 15:55

Gaona picked for prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship

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Awaiting a decision that would decide his future short-term, Angel Gaona received a text message he wouldn’t let himself believe.

Its first word was “Congratulations” and it came from an insider in the selection process for the coveted Morehead-Cain Scholarship to the University of North Carolina. But it wasn’t official and it was early.

“I was thinking, there’s no way he’s talking about me getting the scholarship,” the North Lenoir High School senior said. “It wasn’t even 5 o’clock yet.”

It was Angel Gaona’s time, though. As the official notification confirmed later that Friday, Gaona is one of about 70 graduating seniors – about 3 percent of all candidates – selected for the nation’s oldest merit scholarship and one of the most prestigious.angel_mug

The winnowing process began late last year. Eighty percent of nominees were eliminated by December and that field of semi-finalists was narrowed to 126 finalists in February. Gaona and the other finalists spent the first weekend in March at UNC, where they were interviewed again, sat in on classes and participated in campus activities.

“They really made you feel at home,” Gaona said of Final Selection Weekend. “We spoke to (Morehead-Cain) scholars who were doing amazing things. I almost felt out of place. I’m thinking to myself, there’s no way I’m going to be as good as these people, no way I’m going to do what these people are doing. But I was hopeful and something worked out.”

Valued at about $80,000 for in-state students, the Morehead-Cain Scholarship covers all expenses for four years of undergraduate study. Scholars also participate in summer enrichment programs.

Just days after he graduates from North Lenoir, Gaona will embark on the first of these summer opportunities, a leadership program at a location he can pick from a menu of about 50. “I’m thinking about Alaska,” said Gaona, the son of Paula and Gregorio Gaona of La Grange.

It will be a summer quite different from those spent picking peaches or working in tobacco, an aspect of the student’s life that particularly interested Morehead-Cain interviewers, perhaps for what they said about his work ethic.

North Lenoir High principal Gil Respess shares their respect. “Angel’s being awarded the Morehead-Cain scholarship is an excellent example of what can happen when one sets academic goals and works hard in obtaining them,” he said. “He is a young man of great integrity and is well respected by his peers and educators.”

Ranked No. 1 academically in his class, a spot he shares with a classmate, Gaona played soccer for North Lenoir, has volunteered at the Neuseway Park planetarium and works an after-school job. He spent last summer at North Carolina Governor’s School studying math. He came to North Lenoir through La Grange Elementary School and E.B. Frink Middle School.

"Angel's being selected as a Morehead-Cain Scholar is an extraordinary accomplishment, not only for Angel, but also for North Lenoir High School and Lenoir County Public Schools," school counselor Jennifer Hollingsworth said. "He is a highly motivated, intensely determined student who accepts nothing less than the best from himself as a student and as a person. He is a very deserving recipient of this scholarship. We are all so very proud of him!"

Gaona plans to study pre-med at UNC, go to medical school after college and become a cardiologist.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 March 2017 13:26

Summer at Governor's School awaits pair from North Lenoir

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Sydney Swindell and Mary George King have an interesting summer ahead of them. The two juniors at North Lenoir High School will spend nearly six weeks of it at North Carolina Governor’s School.

“I hope to meet new people and expand my knowledge about the world around me and how society works,” said King, who will study social science at Salem College in Winston-Salem, the west campus of Governor’s School. “I want to bring back my experiences and be able to tell students who want to apply next year about it.”nl_gov_school

Swindell will study math on the east campus, at Meredith College in Raleigh. “I’m really want it to be something where I can learn more about math,” she said. “I love math and I’m hoping I can further that and understand the subject more, as well as have the experiences, meet the people, do all the stuff you expect to do with a summer-long program.”

Governor’s School is a summer residential program for academically or intellectually gifted high school students that offers instruction in one of 11 areas of academic or artistic emphasis, as well as a broader curriculum that integrates these areas. It is the oldest program of its kind in the nation. Each campus accepts 325 students, mostly rising seniors, from the more than 1,800 nominations received. This year, Governor’s School begins June 18 and runs through July 26.

Students win admission after being nominated by their schools and compiling an application package that includes grades and test scores, teacher recommendations and essays that shed some light on their personal and academic interests.

Both King and Swindell are typical of the high-achieving students selected for the program – at the top of their class academically, involved in sports and extracurricular activities at school and active in the community.

Swindell (on right in photo) plays tennis for North Lenoir, is a member of the Quiz Bowl team and Math Club, volunteers as a reading tutor at Banks Elementary School, volunteers with her church and works two after-school jobs.

King is an all-conference soccer player and a cheerleader; is a member of the SGA, Math Club and HOSA, a health occupation group, at North Lenoir; and volunteers with the county’s recreation department and at Southeast Elementary School.

Both are members of the Honor Society.

With King and Swindell, North Lenoir has sent 10 students to Governor’s School since 2014.

“We owe our thanks to the teachers at North Lenoir and to our parents,” King said. “They helped us get in. They pushed us.”

Swindell is the daughter of Rebecca and Frank Swindell of Kinston. King is the daughter of Lesley and Keith King of La Grange.

NASA lands at CSS, bolstering its connection with district

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NASA landed at Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School on Friday to give middle school students a glimpse of the work that goes on inside the nation’s space agency and to bolster its ties with LCPS.

“Typically, we would bring the students to us, but this is a long distance and this is an area of North Carolina we’ve been focusing on a lot this year with some other programs, so we decided to bring the lab to you,” explained Kim Brush, an education specialist with the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.nasa4web

Students heard a presentation by NASA engineers Sam James and – via Skype – Kevin McLean about their work building and testing models of spacecraft, then put some of what the engineers told them into practice in hands-on experiments with Brush’s colleagues and demonstrations in the mobile STEM lab from Elizabeth City State University.

CSS was chosen as a stop for this once-a-year event – called STEM Week at the Lab – because of connections NASA educators have made with teachers from LCPS and other eastern North Carolina counties in the past year, according to Brush.

Since June, NASA has rolled out a program it calls Network of States, which “allows us to focus on a specific region and build a network within that community of industry, government, schools, universities and community colleges so we can add support to the local schools,” Brush said.

Teachers from Lenoir and Beaufort counties have particularly been involved in professional development through NASA, including a four-day session in June and another on Thursday, which included 15 teachers from LCPS.

Students at S.W. Snowden K-8 School in Aurora, in Beaufort County, were connected to the presentation by James and McLean via Skype.

Photos from NASA's visit are here.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 March 2017 11:30

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