Region Honor Surprises Teacher
West Pine Middle School chorus and music teacher Marci Houseman says she loves surprises.
At Christmastime, she likes to wait until the absolute last moment to open her presents.
But for Houseman, the suspense of waiting to know if she was the Teacher of the Year for the Sandhills/South Central region nearly killed her.
In front of students, faculty and system administrators, along with her family and friends, Houseman learned that she is indeed the Regional Teacher of the Year during a surprise announcement at a school work holiday concert at West Pine Middle School Tuesday.
“I am so grateful and very humbled and so excited,” she told the audience. “This is really cool! To all of my students, I couldn’t be who I am without some amazing students who love what we do every day.”
Jennifer Facciolini, the current N.C. AT&T Teacher of the Year, awarded an engraved silver platter and a bouquet of roses to Houseman as students and faculty cheered.
Several students from Houseman’s DRUM program banged away on their hand-carved drums.
Houseman will now compete with seven other teachers across the state for recognition as the North Carolina Teacher of the Year. The state winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in May.
She will also serve on the 2011-2012 State Teacher of the Year team that will serve on state and regional committees, including the State Superintendent’s Advisory Council.
“It’s a great opportunity to be a voice and celebrate the wonderful things going on in education,” Houseman said.
She said she would love to get the chance to be an advocate for education in North Carolina as the state Teacher of the Year.
“I don’t think education is broken,” she said. “Teachers are making wonderful changes because they’re in the classroom reaching the children who unfortunately don’t have people in their lives to reach them. That’s where the change happens—at the ground level.”
She said she would especially like to work with people who are considering education as a career and connect them to the vision of being a positive impact in a student’s life.
“I would encourage them to hold on to the ‘why’ because it gets very overwhelming, and it gets exhausting,” she said. “And if you forget the ‘why’ we’re doing it, then the changes stop happening.”
Denise Scronce, the Sandhills/South Central region educational facilitator for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, was also on hand to congratulate Houseman.
‘Champion for Good’
She said Houseman has a really good chance of becoming the N.C. Teacher of the Year, and she believes that Houseman will be able to make an impact as a regional winner as well.
After being chosen by her colleagues, Houseman was selected among 115 teachers who submitted portfolios and participated in an interview process.
She was one of two finalists out of 12 in her region to be observed in the classroom by a regional selection team led by Scronce and Facciolini.
As the current N.C. Teacher of the Year, Facciolini has been busy traveling around the state speaking to groups and working with people who make big decisions in education.
“You really get a chance to be a champion for the good in education because not everybody is,” Facciolini said. “You serve as an ambassador for all of the teachers across the state. You become their voice. You become their representative.”
Facciolini was happy to impart advice from her experiences to Houseman.
“Enjoy it because this is opening up doors and opportunities that just help you become even better at reaching those kids,” she said.
Drumming It In
Houseman has taught music and chorus at West Pine Middle School for the past three years. She says her biggest contribution to the school is the DRUM program that she started a few years ago.
DRUM is an acronym for Discipline, Respect and Unity through Music that Houseman borrowed from a similar program.
Houseman said the point of the program is to provide another outlet for students who are looking for their niche at the school.
“I realized at the middle school level, there were some kids falling through the cracks, so to speak, that needed an identity that chorus, orchestra and band were not necessarily giving them,” she said.
Students learn about drumming and regularly participate in drum circles that instill self-discipline, respect and positive attitudes in her students along with musical instruction.
As a result of the DRUM program’s core components, student behavior has improved around the entire school and the program has expanded to include a diverse group of students.
“The way they work together, and the way that they relate to each other and cooperate — you hope that that will transfer,” she said.
Houseman said the experience of the drum circle allows groups to break down barriers, release tension and build trust through a communal activity.
“It allows you to see people from a different perspective because you’re creating something side by side,” she said.
Scronce told Houseman that the observation of the DRUM class spoke volumes about Houseman’s ability as a teacher.
“We got it when we went in your classroom,” she said. “We watched them work together, and they had to create rhythms without talking to each other. It was just amazing to see them interacting without any words.”
West Pine Principal Candace Turk said the hardest part was keeping the award a secret. Turk learned that Houseman had won the award a few days after the selection team visited the school in early November.
‘Truly Deserves It’
“I was not really surprised,” Turk said. “I expect her to be the state teacher of the year because of all the things she does above and beyond at our school. She truly deserves it. There’s nobody that would be better for this than her.”
Turk added that she believes the award will help Houseman bring more good things to West Pine.
“She’s raised the bar,” she said. “When you get people doing great things, other people want to be on board, too.”
Houseman is unsure how she will handle the suspense leading up to May’s awards ceremony, but she hopes to spend the next few months focusing her attention on making this March’s school musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” a great success.
She also anticipates expanding the DRUM program to Pinecrest High School in the spring.
“That’ll keep me hopping,” she said. “It’s just one more way for students to get involved, another way for them to find their niche.”
Contact Hannah Sharpe at email@example.com.
More like this story