Shining a Light on NHCS’ Beginning Teachers

by NHCS Rookie Teacher of the Year Lindsey McDermott

Educator, author, and speaker, Angela Maiers says, “We were created for significance, and for us to perceive that we don’t matter is both dangerous and terrifying.  When people know that they matter and their genius is needed by the world, hearts and minds change.  Worlds change.”  This is exactly why we started the NHCS Rookie of the Year program…to shine a light on the great things that are happening in beginning teachers’ classrooms and applaud their hard work and significance.

On February 7, 2017, New Hanover County Schools partnered with the Wilmington Downtown Rotary Club to recognize our first annual Rookie of the Year.  At our first annual banquet, five finalists shared their reasons why they choose to teach every day.

Each of us knows that education is an ever changing world with many challenges. However, our five Rookie of the Year Finalists remind us of the joy and passion that we take with us into our classroom every day.  In fact, we are able to see in the speech below from the NHCS 2017 Rookie of the Year, Ashley High School Teacher Lindsey McDermott, her passion for the profession and purpose in the journey.

“First, I would like to thank the Wilmington Downtown Rotary Club for this wonderful lunch and for sponsoring the whole Rookie of the Year program. I feel truly honored to be a part of this day. I would also like to thank Marcia and Andrea for all of the hard work they put into supporting the Beginning Teachers throughout the entire county. I wouldn’t be here without all of your dedication to the BT program. I would also like to thank Mr. McCarty for being a wonderful principal and for supporting and listening for the last two years.

It’s funny actually- I used to say that you couldn’t pay me to go back to high school, but apparently not only can you pay me to go back- you don’t have to even pay me that well and I’ll go back.

All joking aside, putting the terms of why I continue to teach into a five minute speech is virtually impossible. I think my fellow finalists can agree to that. I’ve had amazing teachers during my years as a student and I am actually lucky enough to teach beside many of them as I also graduated from Ashley High School myself. Those teachers continue to teach me things every single day. But I’ve also had a few very bad experiences with teachers- I think we can all say that. Not every teacher is a good one.

The experience that stuck with me the longest was my fourth grade English teacher. I loved English class. We would read a chapter or two for homework at night and then discuss character analysis, tone, themes- all sorts of stuff. I just loved it. I always wanted to share my opinions on the readings, and I was the first one with my hand in the air as a volunteer. But one day, I left my reading book at home. I informed my teacher at the beginning of class and he dismissed me as if it was no big deal at all.  BUT the minute class started, he asked for everyone who had forgotten their book to raise their hand. Well, naturally, I was rather confused. I had just told him that I had forgotten my book so what was going on? So, I raised my hand and so did two other students. He took all three of us into the hallway and made us each stand in a corner with our noses on the wall.

Humiliation does not even begin to describe I felt as I stood with my nose in the corner for the entire class period. I had left my book at home because I wanted to read more than just the assigned reading. That night I didn’t even want to look at that book–I hated it. All because my teacher did not take the time to find out why I had left my book at home–he didn’t care. So I felt as if he did not care about me either. The remainder of that year–I didn’t put my hand up. I wasn’t interested in the readings. I did not volunteer to answer questions. My teacher took so much away from me because he did not take the time to try to build a relationship with me. He put me in a corner instead.

Today, I teach because I want kids to know that there is someone in their life who will never put them in a corner. Someone who will ask questions about their life and build relationships with them that go beyond the classroom door. For a lot of my students teachers are the only people who encourage them and want more for them.

I teach so that my students–my kids– feel like they “can do” and not “can’t do”. I teach so that they will go on to college or find a job that makes them truly happy. So… everyday when I go into Ashley High School, I strive to build bridges and make connections with each of my students as individuals. THIS is why I teach.”

Clearly, each teacher plays a significant role, positive or negative, in a student’s life.  Every day, teachers can make or break a student’s view of school–forever.  It’s your choice–how will you shine a light on your students’ greatness?

Rookie of the Year- Congratulations to Lindsey McDermott (center) on being named NHCS Rookie Teacher of the Year. The program, sponsored by the Downtown Wilmington Rotary Club, honors beginning teachers with less than three years of experience.

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