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NC Teacher of the Year Gets ‘Thrown Out of a Plane’

By Greg Hince

July 25, 2012. Darcy Grimes, third grade teacher at Bethel Elementary, has had the opportunity to experience a lot of interesting and exciting things since being named North Carolina Teacher of the Year for 2012-2013. However, last week she got to sign her life away to engage in an activity she had previously never considered: skydiving. And it was all caught on tape.

Grimes, who was also Watauga County Teacher of the Year, was invited to do a tandem jump with the U.S. Army Golden Knights last Tuesday at Ft. Bragg as part of her honor as NC Teacher of the Year. Golden Knights Tandem Team Leader, SFC “world famous” Joe Jones jumped with Grimes and filmed the tandem jump. Jones was the Golden Knight who taped president George H. W. Bush when he did his tandem jump.

“It was an amazing experience and I am pretty sure I am the first Teacher of the Year that has been invited to do this,” Grimes said. “We jumped from 13,500 feet, which turned into about 8,000 feet of free fall and 5,500 feet of parachuting.”

Jones spent an extended period of time before the jump informing a room of full of anxious, soon-to-be tandem skydivers at the Golden Knights training drop zone in Laurinburg, NC about the basic safety essentials needed for their immediate future. He also showed them a morale-boosting video montage of The Golden Knights in action. The video featured footage of jumps with celebrities like Bill Murray, Vince Vaughn and Geraldo Rivera.

After viewing the video, the audience was asked to sign a number of forms, effectively signing their life away. The final instructions before the jumpers leave for the hanger are: “Your feet will be right on the edge of the door.”

After Darcy Grimes suited up and met her Tandem Team member that she would entrust her life to, and right before boarding the plane, Grimes looked at the camera and said: “ Thank you so much for this opportunity; I’m so excited!”

As the plane ascended the anxious jumpers were offered a new view of the ground they stood on minutes earlier. As they rose higher, Joe Jones looked to the camera and said: “I’m about ready to throw a teacher out of a plane!”

Grimes put her feet on the edge of the plane, and had no hesitation as she dove into the open air, and had an experience that she said would stick with her for a lifetime. As she landed safely to the ground, Grimes flexed her muscles and shouted: “I am Army strong!”

Grimes is believed to be the first teacher from Watauga County Schools to win the statewide honor of Teacher of the Year since the state began participating in the Teacher of the Year Program in 1970.

Bethel Principal Randy Bentley, in May, described Grimes as “a person born to teach. She has a passion for teaching that transforms into student excitement about learning. If you are feeling down and watch her at work in the classroom, it makes the whole world better.”

Grimes is an Appalachian State University graduate who first joined the Watauga County Schools as after school site director while still a student. She taught in Wilkes County for three years before coming to Bethel in August of 2009. Grimes is certified as an Intel Master Teacher and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in instructional technology at Appalachian.

As North Carolina Teacher of the Year, Grimes received $7,500 from the NC Department of Public Instruction, use of a state vehicle for one year, a technology package from SMART Technologies, and a two-year appointment to the State Board of Education. She was previously awarded $2,500 from the Watauga Board of Education and $5,000 from the Department of Public Instruction for her selection as a Regional Teacher of the Year. She is a candidate for National Teacher of the year, an honor won by three of the state’s Teachers of the Year over the last 41 years.

Grimes will be out of the classroom next year as she travels the state. But, Dr. Richard Jones, Superintendent of Watauga County Schools said the she can serve students in that role as well.

“At a time when so many prominent officials seem to be critical of public education, Darcy will be an excellent model of the quality individuals in our classrooms,” Jones said. “She is a great representative of the wonderful things that happen in public schools and of how we owe it to our students and our teachers to give them all the support they need to be successful.”

And let the record show, Darcy Grimes is not afraid of taking risks inside and outside the classroom, even if she has to sign her life away. It’s that kind of zest for life that seems to attract students, colleagues and friends alike. She’s always ready to put her toes over the edge and jump.