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Exceptional educators: GCS honors Teacher, Principal of the Year

Guilford County Schools named its Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year, praising the huge impacts they made during the unprecedented last school year.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Guilford County Schools is shining a light on exceptional educators, whose passion and proven results inspired young minds and carried students through a school year that was anything but normal.

Tuesday night, the district announced its 2020-2021 'Teacher of the Year' and 'Principal of the Year' -- two women whose leadership is second to none.

English teacher Leah Carper took home top teacher honors. She began her career as an English teacher at Western High School in 2006 and moved over to Northern High School in 2016, taking on several leadership positions along the way. She has touched hundreds of lives throughout her tenure and has been willing to adapt in creative ways -- like TikTok and Instagram -- to connect with her students.

"I feel like we're always competing for our students with all the interesting people who are on their phones all the time. So, I tried to be almost like a YouTube character for my students, so sometimes I would completely change my outfit and become somebody else, just to try to catch their attention and keep them around, and it was really fun," she explained.

Carper emphasized the importance of teamwork, as teachers and students figured out how to navigate COVID-19 limitations.

"I have never felt more grateful for a team in my life. This pandemic, this pandemic teaching, the breaking-through-a-screen teaching, I reached out to so many people... making sure we had everything planned, everything organized..."

She said she also felt inspired by her own three children's teachers, who also persevered during a difficult year.

New Principal of the Year KaTrinka Brown echoed that sentiment.

Brown is currently principal at Jackson Middle School, which GCS noted has made impressive progress in EVAAS (Education Value-Added Assessment System) under her leadership. GCS explained within Brown's first couple years at Jackson, she not only met -- but exceeded the EVAAS Growth Index.

"The win is for me, but it's really for my school -- my staff -- they are amazing. They work extremely hard every day, and it's nice to finally see them being recognized for their hard work," she said.

In her acceptance speech, she emphasized, "To all educators, continue to be bold and encouraged to do the right thing for kids.."