Kimberly S. Jones, an English teacher at Chapel Hill High School who champions equitable access to advanced courses, was named the 2023 North Carolina Teacher of the Year on Friday.
Jones, who grew up in tiny, rural town of Erwin in Harnett County, thanked her mother, Gwendolyn Jones, who instilled in her a love for learning on the “front porch, turned preschool of our double-wide mobile home.”
“Although, I had no clue of my future endeavors at the time, she [mother] must of had an inkling because she instilled in me a voracious love for learning, an indomitable work ethic and unshakable pride in my culture and ancestry, and above all, an enduring call to lead with a servant’s heart and better the lives of all those around me,” Kimberly Jones said.
Kimberly Jones joined the Chapel Hill High faculty in 2006 after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wake Forest University. She has taught 10th grade English and supported students through AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program, a kindergarten through postsecondary college readiness system designed to increase the number of students enrolling and succeeding in college.
AVID is grounded in the belief that all students, especially those from underrepresented communities, deserve equitable access to rigorous courses that best prepare them for college admission and success.
“As an African American woman from a single parent, rural, working class background, I know firsthand the transformative power of education and the impact of hard working educators to change lives,” Kimberly Jones said.
Charles Blanchard, who retired this month as principal of Chapel Hill High, said in a letter recommending Kimberly Jones as Teacher of the Year that she’s had an important and lasting impact on the school.
“Her vision has helped our entire school effectively reach students of all ability levels and provided more equity-centered classrooms for our students,” Blanchard said. “Her leadership has also opened doors for our students of color, resulting in an increase of those students enrolling in honors and Advanced Placement courses.”
In her materials submitted to the selection panel, Kimberly Jones identified two critical issues in public education — the persistent opportunity and achievement gap between underrepresented minorities and white students and the critical need for greater diversity among the state’s teachers.
“Despite significant financial and professional development investment from school districts via curriculum adoptions and increased access to technology, Black and Brown students have yet to reach parity in achievement levels with their white peers,” Jones said in a news release. “I have committed myself to learning more about the systemic inequities and pedagogical barriers within school and community environments that contribute to the disparity.”
She said diversity among teachers is critical because it allows students of color to “see themselves and their identities positively reflected in their learning.”
“Students of color need and deserve to have educators who look like them as positive factors in their formal education, and white students also deserve to have educators that reflect the diverse world in which they will be building their futures,” she said.
Kimberly Jones was selected from among nine regional finalists representing the state’s eight education districts and charter schools. North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year award is sponsored by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The winner receives a cash award of $7,500 and other prizes.
Kimberly Jones succeeds the 2022 Teacher of the Year, Leah Carper, an English teacher at Northern Guilford High School.
North Carolina’s Teachers of the Year serve as advisors to the State Board of Education for two years and as a board member for the NC Public School Forum for one year.
The other regional finalists for 2023 are:
- Northeast: Casey Schulte, Bath Elementary (Beaufort County Schools).
- Sandhills: Teena Robinson, Mineral Springs Elementary (Richmond County Schools).
- Northwest: Shea Bolick, South Caldwell High (Caldwell County Schools).
- Piedmont-Triad: Tiffany Wynn, Thomasville Middle (Thomasville City Schools).
- Southeast: Laura Wilson, Roger Bell New Tech Academy (Craven County Schools).
- Western: Rachael Ray, Madison High (Madison County Schools).
- Southwest: Rachel Frye, East Lincoln High (Lincoln County Schools).
- Charter School: Ryan Henderson, Sugar Creek Charter School.
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