When you enter the office of Hull & Coleman Orthodontics in the Arboretum, the first thing that greets you is a quote that says, "A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."
Deftly stated by comedian Phyllis Diller, who knew a thing or two about smiles. These dentists, however, are giving their young patients more than stunning smiles.
James Hull, his son Turner Hull, and Grant Coleman are expanding their smile-making skills by honoring local outstanding teachers and rewarding their hard work in the classroom.
The March winner was Jeanne Ebert, a fifth-grade teacher at Elizabeth Lane Elementary. She was nominated by Coleman's 10-year-old patient Sarah Miskie. Sarah is the daughter of Mark Miskie and Melissa Welch of Matthews.
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Hull & Coleman has been surprising local teachers with their Outstanding Teacher Awards since last year. School-aged patients are encouraged to write a paragraph describing the commendable teaching traits of their favorite educators.
Each month the dentists choose one or two winners and award the student a $25 gift card, the teacher a $50 gift card and a certificate and the school $250. The award ceremony takes place in the winning teacher's classroom.
"We felt that teachers were not getting enough recognition and we wanted to choose the winners through the eyes of the kids," said James Hull. "It's been a fun way to give back."
Competition is stiff. The doctors read more than 100 entries a month and they judge on the qualities of the nominated teacher and the mechanics of the essay.
The doctors, office staff, parents, students and the administration from the Elizabeth Lane Elementary recently gathered in Ebert's classroom for a short presentation. Sarah read her winning entry as a humbled Ebert listened and smiled. Sarah described her teacher as "brilliant" and said "She is determined for each of us to walk out of her classroom with a new opportunity and a great life ahead of us."
A 28-year veteran of teaching, Ebert praised her class as the reason for her success.
"The kids are extraordinary. ... They inspire me to give my best every day," she said. "They are always willing to learn something new."
Natalie Dugan, marketing coordinator for Hull & Coleman and the program facilitator, said this year they already have honored teachers at Cuthbertson Middle, Weddington Middle and Waxhaw Elementary schools.
"Across the board, the kids are excited, the parents are excited and the school is excited. And it touches the teacher's heart. We've really enjoyed doing this," said Dugan.