Eleven student teachers have been named finalists for Appalachian State University’s Student Teacher of the Year Award. They are Kinsey Crabb, Lydia Dancy, Jordan Dennison, Margie Westcott, David Childers, Mary Alice Faunce, Bevin Hunter, Cat Keith, Madison Shull, Cassidy Upton, and Mason Walker. The Student Teacher of the Year will be announced in a video message featured on the Reich College of Education’s YouTube Channel on Thursday, May 5, 2022 at 5:00 pm.
Students are nominated by their clinical educators, University Field Supervisors, and faculty members based on their teaching, professionalism, and overall effectiveness in the classroom. Nominated students then submit a reflective narrative on their student teaching experience and three letters of recommendation. Finalists for each semester (fall and spring) are selected to compete for the top award.
“I am so proud of all of our students,” said Dr. Monica Lambert, Reich College of Education Associate Dean. “They are transitioning from a student of teaching to a teacher of students.”
“I look forward to seeing all of their great accomplishments future educators,” she added.
Fall 2021 Finalists
Kinsey Crabb, originally from Hamptonville, North Carolina, graduated in December 2021 with a Bachelor of Music in choral music education. She completed her student teaching with Tonya Smith at Elkin High School in Elkin City Schools.
Crabb originally chose to attend App State for its outstanding nursing program. “However, as I became more involved in the a capella community at App State, I realized my true passion is teaching music.”
“As I progressed through the music education program, I quickly recognized that I had found the place that was going to prepare me to teach effectively, build relationships, and provide an excellent music education for students,” she continued.
As a former high school band student, Crabb believes in giving students the opportunity to have life-changing experiences through music education.
“Music teaches empathy, creates an awareness of culture, and cultivates a sense of family,” she noted. “It gives students an opportunity to see how music connects to other areas such as math, science, and English/language arts through its intricacies.”
Crabb was humbled and honored to receive the student teacher of the year nomination.
“This nomination meant that there are people in the education field that believed in me,” she noted. “It gave me validation that I had chosen the right profession.”
“No matter the outcome, I count being a finalist as confirmation that teaching music and making a positive difference in students’ lives is my true calling,” she added.
Crabb is currently the choral director and general music educator at North Wilkes Middle School in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
Lydia Dancy, originally from Hiddenite, North Carolina, chose App State because of the online option and the reputation of the education program.
“I have a passion for students and teaching them life skills that will help them to be more successful in life,” said Dancy.
Dancy graduated in December 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in career and technical education with a concentration in family and consumer science. She completed her student teaching with Laura Telling at South Iredell High School in Iredell Statesville Schools.
“Being a student teacher of the year finalist is such an honor because student teaching is such a crucial part of learning how to become a teacher,” noted Dancy.
The day after graduating, Dancy began as the family and consumer sciences teacher at South Iredell High School.
Jordan Dennison, originally from Asheville, North Carolina, graduated in December 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education with a concentration in diversity studies. She completed her student teaching with Carly Mize at Green Valley School in Watauga County.
For Dennison, becoming an elementary school teacher has been her calling for as long as she can remember. “I have a strong passion for culture and education, and I ultimately decided upon App State because I knew the scaffolded support from the program would encourage me to grow as an Asian-American preservice teacher.”
“The best part about navigating my way through the elementary education program was the block classes,” said Dennison. “Rotating through rigorous courses with the same people helps build community and lifelong friends.”
“I cherish the times with my amazing peers, and the phenomenal professors that brought my dream to a reality: teaching the minds who are the most resilient,” she added.
"Being a finalist as a student teacher of the year means representing the grit teachers alike have and will continue to have for the decades to come," said Dennison.
At the beginning of 2022, Dennison was named Green Valley School’s Title 1 Math Interventionist, where she provides services to students in grades K through 8.
“The biggest pro about this position is that I see the importance and crucialness of understanding previous grade-level mathematical skills,” she noted. “Witnessing and analyzing how math skills develop throughout the grades has proven to be one of the best guiding principles as a beginning teacher.”
Margie Wescott, originally from Durham, North Carolina, graduated in December 2021 with her Bachelor of Science in history, social studies education and a minor in psychology. She completed her student teaching with Brendan Murray at Charles E. Jordan High School in Durham Public schools.
Wescott felt supported by the faculty in the history education program:
- “Having a mentor like Jenny Morris walking me through new experiences and showing real, genuine empathy during challenges made all the difference.
- “Having Dr. Sibaja demonstrate all the ways you can teach and interact with history in and out of the classroom to keep things refreshing.”
“The whole department was one I was so proud to be a part of during my time at App,” she added.
Wescott was surprised and ecstatic to be a finalist. “Student teaching was the hardest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
“To get this validation from my mentors and peers that I managed to do it well makes me so proud of myself and grateful for everything I’ve learned,” she added.
Wescott was offered a full-time position at Charles E. Jordan High School, teaching American History.
“My mentors have become my colleagues and have given me such amazing support as I’ve made the transition into real-life teaching as a mid-year hire,” said Wescott. “I’m especially glad I didn’t have to say goodbye to my kiddos, and I think they are too.”
Spring 2022 Finalists
David Childers, originally from Granite Falls, North Carolina, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in career and technical education with a concentration in business, marketing, and entrepreneurship education. He completed his student teaching with Billy Baker at St. Stephens High School in Catawba County.
Childers chose App State for three reasons:
- the quality of the education program,
- accessibility as an adult learner to earn a degree, and
- the flexibility of online learning while working full time in the school system.
“Attending Appalachian was a dream of mine, one that I started out of high school but was not able to finish,” said Childers. “The opportunity to re-enroll as an adult opened avenues for me to finish what I started years ago.”
“Because of the Appalachian's diversified programs for all ages, I was able to complete my goal and finally accomplish my dream of being an educator,” he added.
Childers was humbled by being nominated for the award. “The real winners are Coach Baker, Dr. Cash, my family, teachers, mentors, and especially my students that I have worked with that have modeled the way I have approached teaching.”
After graduation, he will continue in his current position as an exceptional children's teachers assistant in the Catawba County Schools.
Mary Alice Faunce, originally from Rutherford, North Carolina, is graduating with her Bachelor of Science in elementary education. She completed her student teaching with Whitney Rumfelt at Rutherford Elementary School in Rutherford County Schools.
Faunce did not begin her academic career at App State as an education major, but through a friend who was an education major, she learned more about what the program had to offer. “It helped me make the connection between my past experiences and my passion for teaching, which led me to the fantastic elementary education program.”
Through opportunities in the Honors College, Faunce was able to study abroad in Austria and complete an honors thesis in her field.
For Faunce, being student teacher of the year would be the greatest honor in her undergraduate career in education. “Being chosen as a finalist is a true testament to the perseverance through undergraduate research, internships, and teaching during a pandemic.”
“To me, means that the work I have done, despite various personal and professional hardships that have presented themselves, is making a difference in the lives of my students, which has been the most important part of my student teaching,” she continued.
After graduating, Faunce will begin exploring options for starting her own business related to tutoring and providing opportunities in local schools for gifted youth programs.
“I will also be examining and possibly rewriting curriculum for a children's summer program and working on a publication opportunity for my research related to creativity and its effects on retention and personal development and expression in early elementary school,” she added.
Bevin Hunter, originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, is graduating with her Bachelor of Science in special education, general curriculum. She completed her student teaching with Cori Braxton at Watauga High School in Watauga County Schools.
“As a first-generation college student, I am aware of the privilege of education,” said Hunter. “I chose App State because their credible teacher preparation program, specifically in special education, allowed me to enter into an inclusive environment that created an equitable playing field for educational opportunity.”
“Their inclusive environment did not stop alongside my professors and colleagues within the walls of the classroom, but dispersed throughout the Boone community,” she continued. “It is already a challenge as a first-generation student, but this challenge brought reassurance of support and constructive feedback.”
Since middle school, Hunter knew she wanted to be an educator but was unsure of the subject area. After an experience working with a toddler diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Leukemia, she “learned the importance of differentiation, empowerment, understanding, and patience.”
Following graduation, Hunter will her academics for an additional year to pursue a Master of Arts in special education, along with graduate certificates in autism and emotional behavioral disorders. She began these programs her senior year through the Accelerated Admissions program.
After completing her graduate programs, she plans to move to Austin, Texas, to work as an exceptional children’s teacher in a diverse demographic to reach both students with and without disabilities and multilingual students.
“App State’s education program supports the growth and development of so many high-quality teachers, and I want to take the skills ingrained in me to an area that will push me to continue learning, growing, and evolving as an educator, professional, and learner,” said Hunter.
Cat Keith, originally from Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, knew App State was the right place for her after touring the school. “I could picture myself thriving at App State in a way I couldn't with any other school.”
Graduating with her Bachelor of Science in history, social studies education and a minor in music, she completed her student teaching with Joseph Smith at Holly Springs High School in Wake County Public School System.
Since first grade, Keith has wanted to be a teacher, and one of her favorite subjects in high school was social studies. “To become a Social Studies Education major felt like the obvious next step for me as a freshman in college.”
Keith is “beyond honored to be a finalist for student teacher of the year.”
“I knew within the first week of student teaching that I had chosen the right profession,” she added. “I have so much fun teaching and interacting with my students, and I can't imagine doing anything else with my life. To be recognized as a student teacher of the year finalist for this semester makes me even more excited to begin my career as a teacher.”
As an accelerated admissions student, Keith will transition to a full-time graduate student in the Master of Arts in history program after graduation.
Madison Shull, originally from Maiden, North Carolina, is graduating with her Bachelor of Science in biology, secondary education. She completed her student teaching with John Sullivan at Bunker Hill High School in Catawba County Schools.
Majoring in biology secondary education allowed Shull to take two passions and blend them together into a career - learning about the explanations and complexities of the natural world around her, as well her passion to support and inspire young individuals as her high school teachers did for her.
“With biology education, I am able to help high school students find a passion for the natural world along with creating vital relationships that may help their school or life experience altogether,” said Shull. “My degree program has fully prepared me to teach the complexities of the natural world to learners along with creating strong, impactful relationships with students that will hopefully make a difference in their lives.”
“Being a finalist is an esteemed honor and a reflection of the individuals who have impacted my growth as an educator,” said Shull. “This honor reflects the efforts of my clinical educator, university field supervisor, and professors I've had over the past two years that have gone above and beyond to prepare me for student teaching.”
“As well, being a finalist for this award makes me feel extremely seen and recognized for all the passion and hard work I've put into my time at Appalachian along with the student teaching experience,” she added. “Being a finalist has helped me feel more confident in my ability as an educator and reignited my passion for education too.”
After graduation, Shull is keeping her options open. “I will most likely be exploring my passions for medical lab research, medical marketing, or teaching science at the high school level next fall.”
Cassidy Upton, originally from Sunshine, North Carolina, is graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in art education and a minor in family and consumer science. She completed her student teaching with Robin Bias at Patton High School in Burke County Schools.
After earning her Associate of Arts degree from Isothermal Community College, App State was Upton’s “first and only choice” for pursuing a degree in teacher education.
Upton had always wanted to be a teacher, but it wasn’t until she attended an Asheville River Arts District exhibition that she decided she wanted to be an art teacher.
“My goal as an art teacher is to light a spark within my students that will give them a hunger to create art,” she noted.
Upton is honored to be a student teacher of the year finalist. “The many hours of hard work and dedication have paid off in a way that I never would have imagined.”
During her student teaching, she was able to apply what she learned at App State to impact both my students and school. “At the end of student teaching, the remarks from my students, teachers and principals from my host school, clinical educator, and university supervisor have confirmed that I am in the profession that I am meant to be.”
While seeking full-time employment, Upton plans to continue substitute teaching, furthering her artistic abilities through experimentation, and building her teaching skills with professional development opportunities.
Mason Walker, originally from Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, chose App State because of its history as a “phenomenal music school and phenomenal education program.”
Graduating with his Bachelor of Music in choral education, he completed his student teaching with Sarita Gustely at Apex Friendship High School in Wake County Public School System.
Music has always been a part of Walker’s life. “It is what motivates me, challenges me, and makes me excited to start every day.”
“It wasn't until I went to the North Carolina Governor's School in 2017 that I changed my career path to education,” he added. “While there, I realized that my true passion was connecting with others and helping them find their passion in life which is why I decided to become an educator.”
Walker is honored to be nominated for this award. “Throughout this semester, I have had support from an excellent clinical educator, my university supervisors, and my amazing students, without which I would not be nominated for this award.”
“I hope to continue growing and learning in my future educational experiences to help inspire students as best as I can,” he added.
After graduation, Walker hopes to work as a choral director at the middle or high school level. “I am striving to develop a program built on passion and community.”