Teacher of the Year Displays a Heart of Service — 3rd- & 5th-Grade Teacher at New Century International Elementary School Takes the Title

index_8Fayetteville – “My parents taught me the ‘value of investing’ in others and the invaluable ‘returns’ on those relations,” said Cumberland County Schools’ 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year (TOY) Ashlee Garrison, a 3rd– and 5th-grade teacher at New Century International Elementary School. “My parents always told me that out of all things one may have in his or her life, people are the most important and relationships are our most precious ‘assets.’ Because of my parents’ stellar example, it was always in my heart to serve my community, and to this day the nurturing part of my soul still overflows into my personal and professional relationships as an educator.”

The announcement of the 2015-2016 Cumberland County Schools’ (CCS) Teacher of the Year was made during the annual dinner in the ballroom at the Embassy Suites Hotel Monday evening, September 14. The presentation took place in front of 85 Teacher-of-the-Year candidates, their guests, school administrators, School Board members, and business sponsors.

Garrison received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and her Master of Arts degree in Reading Education from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 2013.

She was inspired to become a teacher early in life. Garrison said she remembers her first-grade teacher allowed her to assist with and teach other students. Her second-grade teacher ‘added fuel to that fire of service.’ “To say she [her second-grade teacher] made going to school ‘fun,’ would be an understatement!” said Garrison. “She did a cartwheel if everyone got an answer right. She sang a song, if we made her proud. These are the small things that make a teacher special, and that made me realize, at the tender age of seven, that education would be my career field as an adult. I could not see how anyone would not want to go to work every day and have that much fun!”

From that point, Garrison said she had many more amazing teachers and mentors, as well as her parents, who held her accountable and pushed her to be her best.

Part of this quest for excellence includes Garrison’s teaching philosophy where she feels teachers should be accountable for serving the student by learning his or her individual learning needs.  “…teachers have the ability to

ignite a passion in their students. It is up to the teacher to determine how each child learns and provide opportunities that challenge and build confidence in their students, while focusing on the strengths and needs of the whole child as a learner and citizen,” said Garrison. “I want to emphasize that each piece of this philosophy is key to ensuring the success of all students…When a passion is ignited, a student’s potential is limitless, because now they have the power to continue seeking experiences that will build upon the experiences they had with the one teacher who made them realize what made them different and exceptional.” Garrison said she keeps a large toolbox of games, songs, technological presentations, etc. in her classroom that addresses individual learning styles and levels. She also hosts small group, team and individual meetings as ways of addressing the needs of all her students.

Outside the classroom, the six-year educator said she is concerned about teacher ‘exodus’ and low teacher morale. Garrison said she feels these are attributed to the sense of powerlessness teachers may experience as it pertains to “the lack of educator representation in North Carolina’s legislative processes.”  She feels that open and frequent communication between legislators and the public school system is one solution to the problem. “Teachers work to meet the needs of their students in the best way possible, and legislators work to meet the needs of their constituents in the best way possible,” said Garrison. “We have a common ground, and now we just need to bridge the gap through effective communication.”

Like legislators, she also has ‘constituents’ (her students) whom she serves by meeting their educational needs. “Educating children is a complex job that I feel honored to have the opportunity to do each and every day,” said Garrison. “…it is my mission to actively love my students and encourage them to be their best.”

As the 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year, Garrison received:

  • $400 and flowers from the Cumberland County Schools;
  • $300 from the Communities In Schools of Cumberland County (CISCC);
  • A one-year car lease of a 2015 Chevy Cruze from Reed-Lallier Chevrolet;
  • A commemorative custom-designed CCS’ Teacher of the Year ring from Jostens;
  • A ladies’ watch from Herff Jones;
  • A weekend stay in the Presidential Suite of the Embassy Suites Hotel;
  • A billboard ad from Lamar Advertising; and
  • A plaque from the Board of Education.

Other winners announced Monday evening were first runner-up Martina Graham from Anne Chesnutt Middle School, who received $300 from the CCS, $100 from CISCC, a plaque, and flowers;  and second runner-up Jennifer Jasinski from Gray’s Creek Middle School, who received $200 from the CCS, $100 from CISCC, a plaque, and flowers. The 10 district winners were awarded iPad Minis from the CCS’ Technology Department, $100 from the CCS, and a plaque. All TOY candidates received $100 from the CCS, a custom-framed certificate, and two hours of C.E.U. credit.



Published on September 19, 2015 by Renarta Clanton Moyd