TOY Winner Teaches Beyond the Curriculum to Relate to Students
Published by Angel Hoggard on September 14, 2020
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Authentic connections with teachers can make all the difference when it comes to students succeeding in the classroom and in life. Nicole Rivers, Cumberland County Schools’ (CCS) 2021 Teacher of the Year, understands this well.
 
From creative assignments requiring students to think outside of the box, to starting a poetry club to give students a voice, Rivers goes above and beyond to form authentic connections while ensuring her students’ education transcends the classroom.
 
“My job as an educator is not to just get what I deem as valuable information into the minds of my students,” Rivers wrote in her TOY nomination portfolio. “It is not just to show students how the words of others impact them, but how to effectively and responsibly use their words to change the world around them. So, when I see students from every level of capability do so, I feel I have done what I have been called to do: teach.”

The announcement of Rivers as this year’s Teacher of the Year winner was made Monday night during the district’s first-ever virtual Celebration of Excellence in Teaching event.
 
A 15-year veteran educator, Rivers graduated from Fayetteville State University. Throughout her tenure, she has held many leadership positions, including English Department chair, co-founder and advisor of Poetic Pathos and Gray’s Creek Slam, and head advisor of G.E.M.S. (Girls Expecting More Success).
 
As the 2021 Teacher of the Year, Rivers received:
  • A trophy and flowers from Cumberland County Schools;
  • $300 from the Cumberland County Board of Education (CCBOE)
  • $500 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services;
  • $3,000 from Lafayette Ford Lincoln ($2,000 for use at her school and $1,000 for her personal use);
  • A commemorative custom-designed CCS’ Teacher of the Year ring from Jostens;
  • A personally engraved desk clock from Herff Jones; and
  • A gift basket of edible goodies from Zazzy Treats, LLC.
Other winners announced Monday night were first runner-up Christopher Lucas from Cape Fear High School, who received a trophy and plant from CCS, $200 from the CCBOE, and $300 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services; and second runner-up Gaundi Allen from Anne Chesnutt Middle School, who received a trophy and plant from CCS, $100 from the CCBOE, and $200 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services.
 
The 10 district finalists were awarded an iPad from CCS and $100 from the CCBOE.
 
All 86 TOY candidates received $100 from CCS, a plaque-certificate from the CCBOE, professional photos from Lifetouch photography and two hours of C.E.U. credit. 
 
As the county-wide winner, Rivers will advance to compete for the regional title.
 
During the virtual Celebration of Excellence in Teaching, CCS also named Tammy Cox, a Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher from Cape Fear High School, as the 2020 Beginning Teacher of the Year.
 
As the 2020 Beginning Teacher of the Year, Cox received:
  • A trophy from the CCBOE;
  • A floral arrangement and iPad from CCS;
  • $200 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services;
  • A photo session and professional photos from Lifetouch;
  • A gift basket of edible goodies from Zazzy Treats, LLC;
  • $50 gift card from School Tools; and
  • An engraved desk clock from Herff Jones.
Cox will go on to compete in the statewide North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching 2020 Beginning Teacher of the Year Award.
 
“We congratulate Ms. Rivers and Ms. Cox and wish them all the best as they move to the next level of their competitions,” said CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. “Tonight’s Celebration of Excellence in Teaching was all about honoring our top-notch educators who have continued to Rise to the Challenge, despite difficult circumstances. They continue to find new ways to communicate with students and families, keeping everyone connected in this new virtual learning environment.”
 
The Celebration of Excellence in Teaching event sponsors were Olde Fayetteville Insurance & Financial Services, LaFayette Ford Lincoln and News Talk 640 WFNC.
 
To view an encore of the virtual celebration, visit https://youtu.be/X3uuwmtHQdk.
        

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