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Garner recognized by peers, students for her state title

Jessica Garner, the 2009-2010 North Carolina Teacher of the Year, was recognized recently during a special celebration at the high school where she teaches.
    
Garner, 31, an 11-year veteran Spanish teacher at Porter Ridge High School in Indian Trail, made Union County history in May by being named the 2009-2010 North Carolina AT&T Teacher of the Year in Raleigh.
   
As she walked on stage, Garner received a standing ovation and cheers from the audience filled with students, fellow Porter Ridge High School staff, school officials, elected officials and members of the community.
   
Dean Arp, Jr., chairman of the Union County Board of Education, presented Garner with a plaque from the Board of Education recognizing her accomplishment.
    
“You will become the face of teachers in North Carolina and we fully expect that when they see you in Washington, you’ll be the National Teacher of the Year,” Arp said. “As you travel this year, think of how you can encourage the people that you meet in your travels. Continue to garner a great name for yourself.”
   
Superintendent Dr. Ed Davis described Garner as a passionate teacher. “You don’t have to be in her classroom but five minutes to see how hard this lady must work to prepare her daily lesson,” Davis said. “And then to see how that equates to a wonderful presentation in the classroom on a daily basis. You take that passion, that commitment, that desire to be an excellent teacher, and then you blend that with the relationship she has with her students, and you see magic happen.”
   
He told Garner that her recognition honored not only Union County Public Schools, but also the teaching profession. “You’re a wonderful ambassador for our school system and for this school. I cannot tell you how proud we are of you. We wish you well as you go on to the national competition. I know you will continue to represent yourself, your school, the community, this school district and this state with pride and distinction.”
   
Two of Garner’s students, senior Jennifer Covert and junior Dyllon Thomas, spoke about Garner. “Since my sophomore year, when I had Ms. Garner for Spanish II and III, she’s become my mentor,” Covert said.
   
Covert spoke about the extra things that Garner does for her students, spending time outside the classroom
   
“It’s Ms. Garner’s love for teaching and learning and the footprint that she’s left on her students’ hearts that sets her apart from other teachers,” Covert said. “I could not imagine anybody better fitting or more deserving of the NC Teacher of the Year award.”
   
Thomas said Garner has not only been a wonderful teacher, but also a good friend, sometimes changing her schedule at the end of the day to tutor him when he needed the extra help.
   
“There’s been countless times that I’ve been struggling in class and she would see that and would give me advice on how to be more organized or better prepared for class, or tell me when I needed to study more,” Thomas said. “On days when I was having a bad day, she would give me words of encouragement or a big smile to cheer me up.”
   
Garner thanked all those who she said played a role in her journey, including the students, her peers and school officials who gave her the tools to do her job. She told the students they had to be seekers of their own destinies.
   
“All I’ve done as a teacher is to find new ways to reach you, to find new ways to teach the material, and hopefully instill in you some of the passion that I feel for the subject matter. I do love the Spanish language and culture and hopefully that has come across to you.”
   
Garner said she never stopped looking for news ways to teach her subject matter that would be unique and interesting rather than just accept the methods provided. “I’ve used every book, every Internet site, every person, ever magazine, every song that could assist me in my quest for the perfect lessons,” she said.
   
Garner challenged the students present “not to settle into the typical apathetic high school attitude.” She urged them to read about things that they are not required to read about and to look up information on something just because they are curious. “Learning doesn’t stop when you walk out those doors everyday at 2:55,” she said.
   
She told students they have the tools, both in their intellect and the resources provided to find out anything they want to know. “Use these resources to make your dreams come true. Nobody is able to do anything amazing just by settling or taking what’s given to you. You have to become the seeker. If you truly want it, you can find a way to make it happen.” 
   
Garner will now represent North Carolina in the national Teacher of the Year competition to be held January 2010 in Washington, DC. She will spend the next year traveling across the state as an ambassador for teachers and will serve as an advisor to the State Board of Education. 

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Jun 08, 2009 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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