2024 NC Teacher of the Year Finalists Announced

By January 18, 2024 News

The Department of Public Instruction today announced the nine finalists for 2024 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. The winner will be named on April 5. In a news release, State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said:

“These nine educators are just a sampling of the incredible talent we’re lucky to have in North Carolina public schools. They represent excellence across disciplines, from core subjects to career and technical education to the arts. I commend each of them for their dedication to getting students excited about learning, and I can’t wait to see what this cohort accomplishes together on behalf of students in the year ahead.”  

According to DPI, the nine teachers are as follows:

  • Anita Rubino-Thomas, Currituck County High School (Northeast)
  • Nardi Routten, Creekside Elementary School (Southeast)
  • Rachel Brackney, SouthWest Edgecombe High School (North Central)
  • Jennifer Blake, Carthage Elementary School (Sandhills)
  • Will Marrs, Davie County High School (Piedmont Triad)
  • Sarah Lefebvre, Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle School (Southwest)
  • Erik Mortensen, Watauga High School (Northwest)
  • Heather Smith, Waynesville Middle School (Western)
  • Lee Haywood, Uwharrie Charter Academy (Charter School)

Congratulations to all of these teachers, but especially, to Lee Haywood as the Charter School Teacher of the Year!

Lee Haywood (middle) at a recognition ceremony in December, honoring her as the 2024 Burroughs Wellcome Fund NC Charter School Teacher of the Year. Photo credit: NC Department of Public Instruction, LinkedIn.

Here’s what DPI’s release said about Lee Haywood:

An 18-year veteran educator, Haywood teaches both visual arts and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), weaving the two together to show students the importance of creativity across all disciplines. 

“Integrating the arts into content areas and into NC schools from top to bottom is an absolute must if we plan on our students being competitive, creative and innovative,” she said. “The more math, ELA, science, history and STEAM that my students can learn through their artwork, the more well-rounded education they will receive.”

Haywood established a relationship with a local nonprofit organization that takes donated materials from manufacturers and individuals to divert trash from landfills. In addition to creating art from what they find there, students learn about civic responsibility, their community and art as a profession. 

She is active in several national- and state-level arts advocacy groups, including the Randolph County Art Education Alliance, the NC Association of Scholastic Activities, the National Art Education Association and the NC Art Education Association.