Deanna Cureton, a first-generation college graduate known for inspiring her students to success, was named 2017-18 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Teacher of the Year on Wednesday.
Cureton teaches English Honors II and is 10th-grade team leader at Charlotte Early Engineering College. She drew cheers and loud applause as she took the stage at a CMS awards ceremony at East Mecklenburg High School. She wiped away tears as she addressed the gathering.
“One thing we have to know about education is that it’s a learning experience,” Cureton told the crowd. “And it’s one we have to continue to grow through and learn from and grow with our students.
“So our practices cannot remain stagnant,” she said. “We have to grow with our students and continue to encourage them.”
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Cureton is known for maintaining “very high expectations” for her students in a supportive classroom environment, Principal Will Leach said. “Deanna truly cares for her students and their success at the next level,” he said. “There is mutual respect between the teacher and the student.”
Cureton joined the school last year teaching freshmen and plans to follow them to graduation.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, she earned her bachelor’s degree from Winston-Salem State University. She considered studying law but realized it wasn’t the path for her. “It isn’t in my personality,” she said.
Instead, she earned her master’s degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University and began her teaching career at Glenn High in Forsyth County. In 2004, she moved to North Mecklenburg High. Cureton and her husband of 12 years have a 4-year-old daughter.
She said teaching at Charlotte Early Engineering College has been a learning experience for her.
“After 16 years of teaching, it’s completely changed the type of teacher that I am,” she said after being named Teacher of the Year for the Leadership Enrichment Achievement Differentiation Learning Community. “My lessons are focused on collaboration and project-based learning. It’s made me a better teacher. My students have benefited from having a voice and a say and a choice.”
For being named CMS Teacher of the Year, Cureton received $1,500 from sponsors Charles G. Monnett III & Associates, a one-year lease on a new car from Keffer Volkswagen, a TV from the National Teachers Association and free lifetime alignment on her car from Griffin Brothers Tire and Auto. She also received a gift bag from Classroom Central.
Steven Randolph of Allenbrook Elementary was named 2017 Teacher Assistant of the Year.
Cureton said she values working in an early college program. “As a first-generation college graduate, access to college courses is so important,” she said. “We all know people that are struggling to pay off student loans, and being able to leave here with up to 60 credit hours is invaluable to our students. This model allows students, regardless of their economic status, to have opportunities to become whatever they want.”