Luke Arno (left), President Moore County Association of Educators and fellow teachers wave to motorists visiting Hillcrest Park in Carthage. 

A statewide education advocacy group stopped in Carthage this week to recognize Moore County Schools staff members’ efforts to support students through a year of virtual and hybrid learning programs.

The North Carolina Association of Educators is midway through its “We Heart Public Schools” tour. The camper emblazoned “1 RV, 5 months, 100 counties” parked at the Moore County Sports Complex on Thursday afternoon for a drive-through meet-and-greet with local public school teachers and staff.

“Today the big goal is just having a celebration. There’s been a lot of negativity, unfortunately, for our public schools so we are trying to build up our public school employees,” said Luke Arno, a music teacher at Carthage and Cameron elementary schools who is president of the Moore County Association of Educators.

“The goal is just to support all employees and let them know that we appreciate all that they do.”

During the event six Moore County Schools staff members were recognized, based on nominations from parents and co-workers, as “lovable leaders” who have risen to the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. They were: McDeeds Creek Principal Molly Capps, Vass-Lakeview teacher assistant Tanecia Frye, Union Pines Assistant Principal Janna Kennedy, McDeeds Creek teacher Rachel Lambert, Westmoore teacher Chris Pierce, and Carthage Elementary custodian Robin Thompson.

Kyle Horton, an internal medicine physician from New Hanover County who has traveled around with the tour, offered a selection of free face masks and responded to questions that teachers may still have about getting vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“Most of the teachers that are heading out to these events are being responsible and already vaccinated,” she said.

“No matter which shot you get, they are almost 100 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths, which is what we really want.”

The NCAE embarked on the statewide tour to support local chapters’ membership and growth and ultimately reach more teachers to support legislation in support of public schools.

Members of the state and local organizations handed out gift bags to school employees and registered them for raffles as they drove through. They also asked school staff to sign a petition requesting that Moore County’s school board and board of commissioners both resolve to request additional school funding from the state legislature.

The event was staged just as Moore County Schools wrapped up its first week of fully in-person learning for students in kindergarten through high school. Arno said that after an unconventional year the Moore County Association of Educators is rededicating its efforts to helping teachers network throughout the district.

“We sometimes get very isolated in our buildings, so connect across the district. We have professional developments that we can provide, we have chances to speak with elected officials and address the questions we have about our schools so just to give teachers a voice within Moore County Schools,” he said.

“With teachers working at home, a lot of teachers felt isolated so we are able to give them a chance to connect.”

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