Last week, the Downtown Wilmington Rotary Club held its 3rd Annual Rookie of the Year Ceremony on Tuesday, February 19th at the Cape Fear Country Club, honoring excellence among beginning teachers with less than three years of experience. Stacey Pinno Maurer, a fifth-grade teacher at Wrightsboro Elementary School, was named NHCS’ Rookie of the Year. Mrs. Maurer’s speech follows, and she talks about the change to her established career path and how the little things encourage her to teach everyday.
I want to thank all of you for the opportunity to be here today. If three years ago you had told me I was going to be one of the finalists for Rookie of the Year I might not have believed you. That is because three years ago I was in a newsroom, not a classroom. I started my career as a reporter for WECT News. I started working part-time for Carolina in the Morning, gradually worked my way up to becoming a general assignment reporter, and then the live morning reporter. Through those experiences, I felt I had seen and reported on every nook and cranny of this county. From uplifting stories about building community, perseverance, and fellowship. To some not so uplifting stories that will stop you in your tracks, and take your breath away. It was one of those stories that brought me to education.
It was in 2016 when I researched and reported on the number of validated gang members in New Hanover County. After talking with the Wilmington Police Department, I learned many of these gang members were just young teenagers, some in middle school and others even younger. I always took pride in reporting the news; however, it was a story like that, that made me realize I did not just want to report on what was happening. I wanted to be someone who was making things happen. So, that fall I enrolled in UNCW’s Master’s in the Arts of Teaching Program and did not look back. I am currently in my second year of teaching 5th grade at Wrightsboro Elementary, and I can 100% say that I have made the right decision.
A statistic that I read recently caught my attention, “Nationally, 30% of new teachers leave the profession by their fifth year.” As a beginning teacher, I began to reflect on what makes me show up every day. What gives me that drive to grade papers when I am exhausted or stay late to talk to a concerned parent? I tried to think of this great story I could tell that would impress all of you. Then, I realized it is not the big things that keep me showing up each day, it is not the test scores, it is not perfect attendance. What it is, is all of the minor things that happen throughout the day. It’s the hug I get each morning from a first grader because I taught his older brother last year. It’s the second grader who waves to me and tells me she wants to be in my class in three years. It’s my new student from Honduras who speaks limited English but tells me he likes being in my class because I am good with him. Those are the moments that I savor. Those little moments are what keeps me coming to school. It’s the relationships I’ve built with these students, and the commitment I have to making sure they have their best day, every day. Even if I can only be that light for them eight hours at a time. That’s why I teach.