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Katie Matthews of Valle Crucis School is Named Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year on Friday, May 18

Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year Katie Matthews gets a congratulatory hug from her husband Jason Matthews.

May 18, 2012. First grade teacher Katie Matthews of Valle Crucis School has been named Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year for 2012-13. Her selection was announced in a surprise visit to her classroom this morning by Board of Education Chair Deborah Miller, Superintendent Dr. Richard Jones and several other central office personnel, and members of her family.

Matthews responded by thanking her students for making the award possible and went on to express her gratitude to colleagues and others who have helped her grow and succeed as a teacher. “It’s such an honor to be recognized this way in a profession I love, and it’s also an honor to the other teachers that I respect and learn from every day. To be able to share it with everyone at Valle Crucis and all of Watauga County makes it extremely special.”

Matthews is a Watauga County native with fifteen years of teaching experience in three different school systems. After completing her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at UNC-Chapel Hill, she began her teaching career in the Wake County Schools and then moved to the Richmond City Schools before coming to Watauga County as a kindergarten teacher at Mabel in 2005. Matthews is no stranger to recognitions for excellence: she has been named a school-level Teacher of the Year in all three school systems where she has worked, including prior recognition as Teacher of the Year at Mabel for 2007-08, and she is a National Board Certified teacher.

She is in just her second year as a first grade teacher at Valle Crucis but has clearly made a big impact already. Valle Crucis Principal Martha Clark praised Matthews as “a fabulous, one-of-a-kind teacher. Her enthusiasm for teaching and for learning is second to none, and she smiles all the time. When I walk into her classroom, students are always actively engaged and they demonstrate a real love of learning.”

The Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year is selected from among the Teachers of the Year for each of the nine schools in the Watauga County system. In addition to Matthews, this year’s school winners included Cindy Darcy, Dr. Laurie Gill, Burl Greene, Kim McAulay, Cogie Reed, Laura Seagle, Stacey Smith, and Anna Welsh.

The selection process for the WCS Teacher of the Year includes a series of unannounced classroom observations, a written statement of teaching philosophy prepared by each candidate, and interviews.

In her statement of teaching philosophy, Matthews said that her experiences in education as both student and teacher have created in her “a steadfast love for the teaching profession, compassion for my students, and an unwavering enthusiasm for the way I teach. It is my strong belief that if you know who you teach and what you teach, then you will know how to teach.” Although she recognizes that each aspect of teaching is important, she has concluded that “knowing who I teach is the most valuable piece of the equation.”

Some of her gifts as a teacher could be inherited as well as learned. Her parents Bill and Linda Mauldin have also been educators, and clearly her passion for teaching is very deeply rooted. “I always knew teaching was what I wanted to do,” she said in her Teacher of the Year interview, “and I’m always in the role of both teaching and learning.”

Matthews will now be a candidate for Teacher of the Year in the northwest region of the state. That selection is expected to be announced in December.

In addition to praising her colleagues at Valle Crucis and throughout the Watauga County Schools, Matthews also lauded current Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year Darcy Grimes, saying “I have huge footsteps to follow.” Grimes, a third grade teacher at Bethel, recently won the title of NC Teacher of the Year from among the approximately 97,000 teachers in the state’s public schools.