North Carolina honors state's top teachers

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NC's top teachers were honored in Cary on Thursday.

North Carolina's teachers received a lot of love and praise Thursday at the state's "Teacher of the Year" awards.

This year's winner is Onslow County kindergarten teacher Lisa Godwin. Among the eight nominees from across the state were three teachers from the ABC11 viewing area.

They include Miles Macleod, an English and Global Studies teacher at Heritage High School in Wake Forest; Juandalynn Ray, a seventh-grade Language Arts teacher at Sampson Middle School in Clinton; and Deborah Brown, an English, Debate and Journalism teacher at Research Triangle High School in Durham.

North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson said all of the nominees are winners in his eyes. Gov. Roy Cooper said it's why he thinks the state should pay teachers more.

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"We can get our teacher salaries to the national average," Cooper said. "In my budget, we proposed a plan to do that, and I look forward to working with our legislature to make sure that we invest in our public schools, that we make our school successful, and that we attract and retain the very best teachers we can."

The three central North Carolina nominees shared how they're trying to inspire students.

Macleod said his teaching is about opening up students' eyes to the world with his "Project Wisdom," service learning initiative.

"It started really organically, three years ago, when a student of mine asked me if I could take him to west Africa - where I actually started my teaching career," Macleod said, "and from that simple question, three years later, there's now over 200 students at three high schools participating in this program."

Ray said for her, it's about making sure her students are nurtured inside and outside the classroom.

"A student who is having some struggles, not only academically, but at home, not fitting in, and that student trusted me to share what's happening at home, but then also allowing me to work with them on like different academic areas," she said.

Brown said she takes student from her debate class on various competitions across the country to prepare them to be better learners.

"We know that we're training students for jobs that don't even exist yet," she said. "So this idea is not so much based on content that I need to teach the kids, but the craft of how to go explore, and learn and dig deeper into what they're studying."

All three of them hope their extra efforts will forge skills their students will carry with them for life.

"You need critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and they're the skills that you can take with you and really just unlock the whole world for you," Macleod said.

The North Carolina Teacher of the Year will spend the next school year traveling to classrooms all across the state as an ambassador, and the teachers we spoke to serving our area said they plan to keep moving forward, inspiring more students in their schools every day.

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