Dare school heroes nominated for $10,000 award

Published 4:58 pm Monday, February 24, 2020

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NC School Hero nominations are underway across the state. Created by the N.C. Education Lottery, the NC School Heroes program will award $10,000 to ten heroes and $10,000 to their school.

This program highlights educators who have made an impact on their school. Nominations can be submitted now through March 15, 2020 online at www.ncschoolheroes.com.

The top 200 eligible finalists, determined by the number of “likes” received, will be judged by a panel of employees of Wunderman Thompson, the sponsor’s creative advertising firm. These judges will narrow down the finalists to ten potential winners.

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The judges score entries on a scale of 0 to 5 based on criteria including: “(1) entry must reflect the values of the NCEL; (2) entry must detail the outstanding efforts of the candidate to aid students, and (3) the entry must provide strong emotional resonance.”

As of Feb. 20, Dare County has ten nominations for teachers from all three First Flight schools as well as Manteo Elementary and Middle schools, Nags Head Elementary School and Kitty Hawk Elementary School. These nominations include Shannon Brinkley (NHES), Shelawn Burton (MES), Anita Gorruso (FFMS), Samantha Iulo (FFHS), Holly King (FFMS), Janet Michler (KHES), Mike Pitzulo (FFHS), Penny Pugh (FFEM), Sam Smith (FFES), and Amanda Songer (MES).

Smith is a special education teacher at FFES, working with students that have autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Kim Wooten nominated Smith due to “his positivity and energy [which] help students get through their ‘not so great moments’ or days.” Principal Jodie Mitchum of FFES said Smith works to build relationships with his students and he “works with other classroom teachers to get kids out into the general community of school.”

Cher Eure and Bryce Kline nominated Pugh, a fifth-grade science and language arts teacher at FFES. Pugh said, “Sam Smith is an exceptional teacher. His knowledge of his area of expertise, his sensitivity shown to his students, and his overall compassionate nature make him the most deserving teacher I know for this special honor.  Just being nominated is truly an honor for any teacher, but Sam deserves to win and these are just a few reasons why he has my support.”

Burton is the after-school enrichment program (ASEP) site coordinator for MES. She has won Employee of the Year four times in twelve years and is described as “a real kid person.” Marsha Riibner-Cady, ASEP director, nominated Burton to receive this award because she is adaptable and if need be, can be called on at any time to help a child with special needs. “She always makes sure they [the children] are safe and having fun,” Cady said.

Iulo is an exceptional needs educator at FFHS. Tama Creef, who nominated Iulo for this award, described her as the “most optimistic person I have ever met.” Principal Chuck Lansing of FFHS said Iulo “helps her students establish friendships with students throughout the building.” Iulo has her students prepare a mobile café to deliver coffee around the school. Lansing added, “Ms. Sam is an excellent teacher and we are very lucky to have her here at FFHS.”

FFMS teacher Holly King was nominated by Ashby King. “Mrs. King is always available to help with any issue that may arise,” Ashby said. King is a technology and STEM teacher at FFMS, as well as an AIG facilitator and a Dare to Innovate lead teacher. FFMS Principal Diane Childress said King “taught me more about technology than I have ever learned.” Childress also mentioned that whenever teachers need assistance with technology, King will find something that allows the teacher to learn and then show students what they learned.

Brinkley is a fourth grade teacher at NHES. Laurie Seal said she works with Brinkley’s mom and people always come into their office and see Brinkley’s picture. “They always have wonderful comments and compliments,” Seal said.

Gorruso is a seventh-grade special education teacher at FFMS. Dennis Twiford, who nominated Gorruso, said the teacher has been battling stage IV metastatic breast cancer for the past four years. “She has rarely missed school . . . she feels she must be there for her special needs students,” Twiford wrote. Childress added that Gorruso “is really good about being real and looks beyond just the grade bubble.” Childress said that Gorruso targets individual goals and will also co-teach with general education teachers.

Michler is the facilities management/head custodian of KHES. KHES Principal Greg Florence said Michler unintentionally worked her way up to head custodian, taking on main roles and serving as a leader for her staff. “She knows what she is doing, has attention to detail and really likes helping people,” he said. Cindy Tillett nominated Michler because “she goes the extra mile for each teacher, student and staff.” Florence added that Michler will regularly go around the lunch room and help students read notes from their parents.

Songer was nominated by Ron Lamar. She is a counselor at MES that makes sure students come first, according to Lamar. “Great person, never complains and is always cheerful,” he added.

Pitzulo works at FFHS as a Core & Construction and carpentry teacher. Nominated by Susanna Slagle, Pitzulo is said to have his students’ best interest at heart. Slagle said he gives his own time and money to make sure the students have what they need for their carpentry classes. Lansing added, “He is very dedicated and extremely knowledgeable regarding his content. He regularly assists kids outside of regular class time with projects and promotes their creativity.”



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