Lecia Shockley was so impressed with the teachers her children had when they entered Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that she was inspired to become a teacher herself.
Flash forward some 15 years later to Thursday night, where the visibly stunned second-grade teacher at Selwyn Elementary was named CMS Teacher of the Year.
“Being a teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is an honor. Being a parent in Charlotte-Mecklenburg is an honor. It’s a privilege to be both,” Shockley said. “We are so lucky to be in a place that values public education.”
Every year, Shockley goes to each student’s home and reads them a bedtime story. She holds a class dinner at a local restaurant that she invites students and their families to attend. And she has a day devoted to each student in the classroom.
Thursday’s event, which coincided with Teacher Appreciation Week, was held at the Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology before a crowd of more than 100 people.
Selwyn Principal Shane Lis called Shockley a phenomenal educator who integrates data and real-world experience in her lessons. She also is an advocate of making home-to-school connections.
“She is truly an everyday hero,” Lis said.
Shockley is a UNC Charlotte graduate who began her teaching career in 1999 at Derita Elementary.
After the event, Shockley said, “I can’t wait to tell my kids at home and my kids in the classroom. They think they earned it (the honor), and they really did.”
There were seven finalists, who were first selected by their schools then the larger learning communities. CMS has more than 9,000 teachers, and Shockley now qualifies for the regional Teacher of the Year competition.
Cynthia Corwin at J.H. Gunn Elementary won the Teacher Assistant of the Year award.
Gunn Principal Monique Davis called Corwin “a phenomenal woman. Our students know that she loves them.”
The other finalists for that award were: Christina Saladino, Grand Oak Elementary; Holly O’Brien, Highland Mill Montessori; Russhonia Jackson, Reid Park Academy; James Wideman, Cornelius Elementary; and Debbie Peterson, Sharon Elementary.
Last year’s CMS Teacher of the Year, Garinger High’s James Ford, went on to be named the North Carolina Teacher of the Year, the first from CMS to win the state award since 1970. Near the start of Thursday’s ceremony Ford told the finalists to soak in the moment and realize how important their role is.
The other finalists were: Brad Baker, a 10th-grade civics and economics teacher at William A. Hough High; Willie Brooks, a seventh- and eighth-grade language arts teacher at James Martin Middle; Deanna Chinault, a science lab teacher for kindergarten through fifth grade at Endhaven Elementary; Darrell Potts, a world history teacher at West Mecklenburg High; Kristin Ward, an English and creative writing teacher at West Charlotte High; and Emily Wegener, who teaches kindergarten through fifth-grade special education students at Albemarle Road Elementary.
Superintendent Heath Morrison praised all of the finalists for Teacher of the Year as well as the Teacher Assistant of the Year.
“You change lives. You make a difference, and you help young people,” he said. “Let us celebrate you.”