The love of learning has always been a driving force for Moore County Schools’ 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year.

The district announced New Century Middle School special education teacher Leah Bartram’s selection from a pool of 22 school-level honorees on Friday.

Bartram has been at New Century for eight years of her 12-year teaching career. Though she’d already started her own family by the time she finished college and started that career, Bartram found opportunities to lead children toward new knowledge as a scouting leader and teacher assistant at her children’s school.

Since becoming a professional educator though, she has taken the lead in exploring new and better ways to help students with disabilities master basic skills and discover their personal strengths.

“It is my students and colleagues that influence me daily to keep growing as an educator. I learn so much from my students: compassion, understanding, patience and joy,” she wrote in her application. “I hope that the academic lessons I teach make an impact on my students beyond just academics. My students motivate me to become the best teacher that I can be so that they can achieve their potential and develop a life-long love of learning.”

Bartram has led district-wide professional development sessions focused on reading and co-teaching. She’s also developed a course on the day-to-day challenges that special needs students face in academic situations.

As a result, New Century has tracked significant academic growth among its special needs students. Bartram says that’s come about partially because her students feel they’re an integral part of the school community.

“I fully believe that each student is a unique individual with dreams, fears, and challenges. My role is to help my students learn what is necessary to achieve their dreams, to provide them with a safe place to learn, and to teach them how to face and overcome challenges,” she wrote.

“I partner with my colleagues to create academic and social support across the school and refuse to allow any student to give up on themselves or their learning. Every student needs to be regarded as a general education student first and a special education student second.”

Over the last year Bartram has volunteered her time after school to tutor at-risk and special needs students four days per week. She’s also sewn more than 450 cloth masks for New Century teachers and staff, FirstHealth and other businesses and schools.

As Moore County Schools’ Teacher of the Year, Bartram will go on to compete with other districts’ nominees for the South Central Regional honor. The district’s runner-up Teacher of the Year, Whitney Irwin of Carthage Elementary, will serve as alternate.

Principal of the Year

Administrators also surprised Aberdeen Elementary Principal Dante Poole with this year’s Principal of the Year honors on Friday.

Poole has led Aberdeen Elementary since 2016 but started with Moore County Schools in 2007 as an elementary school counselor. He later earned principal’s credentials through the Sandhills Leadership Academy, a three-year alternative internship-based program designed to equip new principals to improve academic results at struggling schools.

Poole POY

Dante Poole of Aberdeen Elementary School was named Moore County Principal of the Year. Here he sits with a class of first graders Friday morning after the surprise announcement. Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot

As an assistant principal and principal, Poole has focused on improving student attendance, establishing community partnerships and using data to identify achievement gaps in his schools. Over the last two years he’s worked with the staff of two schools, Aberdeen Elementary and the former Aberdeen Primary, to establish a single cohesive staff with a clear, renewed mission with the unification of the two schools on their new campus last fall.

Other school-level teachers of the year for 2021-2022 are: Leigh Warner, Aberdeen Elementary; Pamela Gaddy, Cameron Elementary; Whitney Irwin, Carthage Elementary; Paul Rizzo, Community Learning Center at Pinckney; Molly Walsh, Crain's Creek Middle; Shannon Bates, Elise Middle; Amelia Caviness, Highfalls Elementary; Anna Anderson, McDeeds Creek Elementary; Michael Fury, North Moore High; Jennifer Kearney, Pinecrest High; Jessica de Mestre, Pinehurst Elementary; Tremaine Simmons, Robbins Elementary; Tina Huskey, Sandhills Farm Life; Taylor Murphy, Southern Middle; Nicki Bauer, Southern Pines Elementary; Harley Crawford, Union Pines High; Kristen Patton, Vass-Lakeview Elementary; Peggy Overton, West End Elementary; Julie Cooper, West Pine Elementary; Amber Healy, West Pine Middle; and Jessica Hussey, Westmoore Elementary.

Contact Mary Kate Murphy at (910) 693-2479 or

(2) comments

Kent Misegades

NC School Report Cards, Last reported for 2919: New Century Middle School : C. , Aberdeen Elementary : D, Academy of Moore Charter School : A, the only A-rated school in Moore County. What accolades did its leadership receive?

Ed Dennison

I don't know Kent, tell us.

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