Stone is Teacher, Huffman is Principal of the Year
The new “Teacher of the Year” for the Wilkes County Schools’ “creates a classroom environment that is like stepping into the sunshine on a warm spring day.”
Meanwhile, the new “Principal of the Year “has a true passion for leading and inspiring others to lead,” and is passionate about her faith, family and school.
Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd used these descriptions Monday night when he announced the selections of Alicia Stone as teacher of the year and Pam Huffman as principal of the year for the Wilkes schools in 2020-21. Stone is a Wilkesboro Elementary School kindergarten teacher and Huffman is principal at West Wilkes Middle School.
They were announced at the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year Awards Dinner at the Stone Center in North Wilkesboro. Both will now advance to regional competition.
Byrd said Stone is known for doing what it takes to help every family and child succeed and noted that her “pass catches on to others like wildfire.”
Stone said she is blessed to be able to do what she loves and work in the Wilkes County Schools. In accepting the award, she said children need to know they are loved before they’re expected to start learning.
Stone graduated magna cum laude with a degree in elementary education and a minor in music from Lenoir-Rhyne University. She was named “Student Teacher of the Year” for Lenoir-Rhyne in 2004 and was Mount Pleasant Elementary teacher of the year in 2008 and 2013. Stone was a finalist for Wilkes school system teacher of the year in 2008.
She taught at Mount Pleasant Elementary from 2004-2014, and has been at Wilkesboro Elementary since then. Stone has served on numerous school district and individual school committees.
She is the daughter of George and Elsie Harris of Sparta. Huffman said she is fortunate to have married the love of her life, Gary Huffman, whom she said has always supported her.
Huffman said she saw factories go away from her hometown of Sparta and never return. “I am very passionate when it comes to Wilkes County and trying to make this a better place that our children will want to come back to.”
She added, “We have awesome educators in this room…. I’m so proud to be part of what we do every day.” Huffman said that after the West Middle School drama club performed Saturday, a student in the club who had been through many changes at home this year told her teacher that she was like a second mother to her. “Each one of us do that every day with the people we come in contact with.”
Huffman became a teacher in the Wilkes schools in 1999, was principal at C.B. Eller Elementary from 2011-2014 (where she led the school in implementing the Positive Behavior Intervention Support program) and has been principal at West Middle since then. Byrd said she led establishment of the Leader in Me program at West Middle, which has received multiple honors for its implementation of this. West Middle was named a 2019 Leader in Me Academic Honor Roll School, an award only two schools have received.
She was a finalist for Wilkes principal of the year in 2018. Huffman has a master of arts degree from Gardner-Webb University and at the same school has completed classroom requirements for a doctorate degree, which she is still pursuing.
The other four finalists for teacher of the year were Kathryn Willis from C.B. Eller Elementary School, Amanda J. Stamper from North Wilkes Middle School, Rebecah Kathryn Williams of West Wilkes High School and Anthony Byers from Wilkes Early College High School.
The other two finalists for principal of the year were Dr. Jodi L. Weatherman from Mountain View Elementary School and Heather Melton Freeman from North Wilkes Middle School.
Teachers of the year from other Wilkes schools are Cynthia Colbert from Boomer-Ferguson Elementary, Autumn Brown from C.C. Wright Elementary, Tonya S. Teague from Central Wilkes Middle, Brittany Simmons from East Wilkes High, Ronald Foster from East Wilkes Middle, Shannon Hamby from Millers Creek Elementary, Tara Hinkle from Moravian Falls Elementary, Reggie L. Wiles Jr. of Mount Pleasant Elementary, Julie Owens Walker from Mountain View Elementary, Tamara Roath from Mulberry Elementary, Robin McGrady of North Wilkes High, Emily A. West-Dula from North Wilkesboro Elementary, Benita Martin from Roaring River Elementary, Courtney Bauguess of Ronda-Clingman Elementary, Billie Jean Johnston of Traphill Elementary, Danielle W. Yount of West Wilkes Middle and Nicole J. Britt of Wilkes Central High.
Jolly said her third-grade teacher, Jane Phillips, first exposed her to the idea of becoming a teacher. Jolly said Phillips, although a first-year teacher when she was in her class, “knew the key to learning was caring for and having a genuine relationship with each student.”
Jolly said other teachers in the Wilkes schools inspired her to become an educator, including Pauletta Parker at Woodward Junior High School, who encouraged Jolly to assist her with her exceptional children’s class. She mentioned Ann Parsons and Linda Hale at West Wilkes High School, “who had the patience of Job when it came to helping me with algebra and geometry.
“I’ve always heard that children may forget what you taught them, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” Jolly said teachers fill many roles, including as counselors, parents, guardians, mediators and so much more.
After Johnson asked people to reflect on a once in a lifetime experience they had, encouraged them to use the time they have, “live in the now and make each moment a once in a lifetime opportunity for positive growth.”
He added, “Too often, I’ve lived in the past and thought about the good and the tough times…. We should not worry about yesterday, nor tomorrow, because these are things that are out of our control.” Johnson also said there is a sign on his office door that says, “There is always, always something to be thankful for.”
McNeill announced that to show his family’s appreciation of teachers in the Wilkes schools, this year’s teacher of the year would have the unlimited use of a 2020 Nissan Rogue from McNeill Nissan for the year ending in March 2021. In addition, McNeill said all employees of the Wilkes County Schools will be allowed a $500 additional rebate on every vehicle they purchase from McNeill Nissan and Empire Chevrolet. The dealerships will service vehicles purchased from them by Wilkes school personnel for free, plus pick up and deliver the vehicles for this work.
McNeill said that in addition to being from a family in the car business in Wilkes for many years, he comes from a long line of educators. “My great-grandfather loaded his daughters up in a wagon and drove them up the mountain to Appalachian State Teachers College and they all taught school here in Wilkes County,” he said.
In addition, Stone received a Brother label maker from PSI Pencare, $50 gift card from Cook Consulting, charm bracelet from Michael’s Jewelry, gifts from Thirty-One Gifts LLC and two admission tickets to Wet’n Wild Water Park. Huffman also received a cool mesh desk chair from PSI Pencare, four admission tickets to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and a Carolina Panthers football.
All principal of the year finalists and teacher of the year finalists received a $10 gift certificate from the Brushy Mountain Smokehouse, four “be our guest” cards from Chick-Fil-A, combo meal card from McDonald’s and desk pad and desk accessories from PSI Pencare.
All principal of the year finalists also received a $25 gift card from Bojangle’s and a $25 Amazon gift card from On Premises Solutions. All teacher of the year finalists also received a large pizza certificate from Pizza Hut, $20 Amazon gift card and $10 Bojangle’s gift card from On Premises Solutions.
A selection committee consisting of a community representative, the previous year’s teacher of the year and the previous year’s principal of the year interview each school nominee. The committee also examines a resume for each school nominee. This year’s community representative was Jenny Morgan from Louisiana Pacific Corp.
Each interview is scored using specific guidelines. Nominees with the top five scores are finalists. These top five finalists then participate in a classroom observation and a portfolio review. The nominee with the highest overall score from the interview and classroom observation is selected as district teacher of the year.
Once nominations are reviewed by Dr. Westley Wood, assistant superintendent, principals vote on the finalist for each level. The selection committee conducts a school visit scoring each principal finalist with specific guidelines. The principal finalist with the highest total score is selected as district principal of the year.