Principal, Teacher Vie for State Honors
Moore County now can boast regional finalists for the 2006-2007 state principal and teacher of the year awards.
Robin Lea, principal of Union Pines High, and Bridget Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Vass-Lakeview Elementary, are among eight regional finalists for the state awards in their respective fields.
Lea received the news in a surprise ceremony in Cary on Tuesday afternoon. The Pilot was unable to reach her for comment.
Johnson learned about her honor Friday afternoon, also in a surprise assembly.
"I had no idea," Johnson said after the presentation. "They told us it was an assembly for a fundraiser."
As a regional finalists, Johnson and Lea will undergo more formal interviews before the state winners are announced this spring.
Johnson will head to Cary at the end of April for the state Teacher of the Year competition.
"Mrs. Johnson is now going to have some homework," Danny Holloman with the N.C. Depart-ment of Public Instruction (DPI), said during the assembly, to loud cheering from the students.
School system administrators, school board members and DPI representatives all attended the assembly for Johnson.
"It's very evident in her classroom that (Johnson) adores children," Superintendent Susan Purser said, "and understands that she has a special calling and talent."
After the assembly ended, Johnson was quick to shift the spotlight to others.
"It's really a credit to this school," Johnson said, "and to Moore County Schools."
But administrators say the award belongs to Johnson.
"It's her thing," Purser said. "We're just her supporting cast."
The Moore County school system has never had a state teacher or principal of the year.
If Johnson is selected as the state winner, she will receive, among other things, $2,500 and a new car. Lea will receive $1,500 for her personal use and another $1,500 for her school if she wins the state principal award.
Lea has spent all 23 years of her educational career in the Moore County system, teaching at Carthage Elementary, Elise Middle, West End Elementary and West Pine Middle.
She was an assistant principal at Pinecrest High School and principal of Vass-Lakeview Elemen-tary.
Lea has been the principal at Union Pines since 2002.
When she received the district principal of the year award earlier this year, Lea said that award should be called "the Union Pines team award."
"We pull together as a team, and we do what we think is best for the school and our students," she said at the school system's Principal of the Year banquet. "I consider myself very fortunate and very blessed to have had the opportunity to work in Moore County Schools."
Johnson, who is board-certified and has been teaching for six years, spent her first year as a fifth grade teacher at Southern Pines Elementary. She said she still has close ties there.
"There are a lot of great people there," she said. "They got me off to the right start."
At Vass-Lakeview, Johnson started a book club for Spanish-speaking families. She helps with the school's LEAP program, tutoring children from Spanish-speaking homes in English.
"She engages her children," Purser said. "She knows the art as well as the science of teaching."
Johnson also has worked to integrate students with disabilities into normal classroom activities at the school.
"This process has taught me a great deal about what I believe as a teacher," she said in a statement. "Every child deserves the right to learn with his or her peers."
Along with the regional teacher of the year award, Johnson has received $5,000 for her duties as a finalist, which include serving on advisory committees and planning a Teacher of the Year celebration for next year.
Johnson added, "I'm definitely looking forward to just being on this team."
Katherine Evans can be reached at 693-2480 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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