May 3, 2012. Darcy Grimes, a third grade teacher at Bethel Elementary School, has won the title of North Carolina Teacher of the Year from among the 97,000 teachers in North Carolina public schools. The award was announced today in Raleigh at an awards ceremony honoring the nine finalists for the state Teacher of the Year.
“We are so proud of Darcy, the work she does every day, and the caring energy she brings to every class,” said Superintendent Dr. Richard Jones. Whether great teachers are born with special abilities, I do not know; however, Darcy clearly has the “gift” for working with kids with great effectiveness. For Darcy to be number one out of nearly 100,000 teachers in North Carolina is a great tribute to her individually, to Bethel School, and to all our teachers. This is a great moment for the Watauga County Schools, as Darcy represents the excellent teaching occurring in every school.”
Jones also commented on the significance of the fact that Grimes teaches at Bethel. “The fact that the Teacher of the Year is from Bethel, probably one of the smallest schools in the state by enrollment, makes the award even more meaningful. I am so pleased to share this moment during my time as interim superintendent.”
Bethel is currently the smallest school in the WCS system, with an enrollment of 187 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. It is rated a NC School of Distinction based on the state’s system for evaluating students’ academic growth and proficiency.
Grimes is believed to be the first teacher from the Watauga County Schools to win the statewide honor since the state began participating in the Teacher of the Year Program in 1970. She was named the Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year last May and was chosen as the Northwest Region Teacher of the Year in December. Each step in the selection process – local, regional, and state – involves careful review of the qualifications, classroom performance, and communications skills of each candidate.
The selection process for the Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year consists of five unannounced classroom observations, a review of a written statement of teaching philosophy from each candidate, and an interview. The local selection committee includes representation from teachers, principals, the Board of Education, and the Watauga County Schools central office. At the regional level of competition, candidates submit teaching portfolios for assessment, go through another interview, and receive on-site school visits and more classroom observations. The final selection of the NC Teacher of the Year is made after additional screening by a committee that includes professional educators and business and community leaders.
The guidelines for choosing the North Carolina chooses a Teacher of the Year require a person who is “dedicated and highly skilled, proven capable of inspiring students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn.” Because the Teacher of the Year will travel around the state to speak on behalf of education, this person must also “be poised, articulate, and energetic.”
Well before her selection as Teacher of the Year, Grimes was recognized as an exceptional educator. One of her colleagues at Bethel said that “even on a bad day, Darcy is still the best teacher around.” Bethel Principal Randy Bentley 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.” Bentley also praised Grimes for her skilled use of technology to enhance classroom instruction and for how her students enjoy learning with her. “Other people talk about 21st century instruction. She already does it,” said Bentley.
Grimes is an Appalachian State University graduate who first joined the Watauga County Schools as after school site director at Blowing Rock School while still a student at ASU. She taught at Moravian Falls Elementary 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 ASU.
As North Carolina Teacher of the Year, Grimes will receive $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 will now be 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.
“The only down-side of her selection is that Darcy will be out of her classroom next year traveling the state, but she will continue to serve students in that role. 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. 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.”