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  • CCS Teacher of the Year Maureen Stover Selected as Finalist for National Title

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    January 29, 2021
    CCS Teacher of the Year Maureen Stover
    Selected as Finalist for National Title
    Fayetteville, N.C. - Maureen Stover, Cumberland County Schools’ (CCS) 2020 Teacher of the Year and the 2020 Burroughs Welcome North Carolina Teacher of the Year, has been selected as one of four finalists for the 2021 National Teacher of the Year. The finalists were announced today by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which facilitates the prestigious recognition program.
    Stover, a science teacher at Cumberland International Early College High School in Fayetteville, is the first teacher from North Carolina to compete for the national honor since 2008, when Cindi Rigsbee, an Orange County middle school teacher, was a finalist. North Carolina’s last National Teacher of the Year was Donna Oliver, from Hugh Cummings High School in Burlington, in 1987.
    Stover was named North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year last summer, from a field of eight regional teachers of the year and one charter school nominee.
    CCSSO’s National Teacher of the Year Program identifies exceptional educators across the country, celebrates their work in and outside the classroom, and through a one-of-a-kind professional development opportunity, helps them amplify their voices and empowers them to take part in policy discussions at the state and national level. 
    A former intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, Stover began her teaching career 12 years ago in Florida through the federal Troops to Teachers program. Stover has been teaching biology, earth and environmental Science and AVID for the last three years at the early college in Cumberland County, where she holds a number of leadership roles.
    Known to her students as the “Science Mom,” Stover says that her students understand that her commitment to them extends beyond the 90 minutes of classroom instruction each day.
    “My students are my ikigai,” she says. “In the Japanese culture, ikigai means life’s purpose. My ikigai is helping my students develop academically, socially and emotionally as they transition from adolescence into adulthood. … I have found that one of the most important parts of being a teacher is the relationships I form with my students.”
    Beyond helping students achieve academic success, Stover said, “my role as a classroom teacher is to be part giver of knowledge, part cheerleader, part counselor, part mom, part nurse, and part what my kids need me to be that day.”
    State Superintendent Catherine Truitt said all North Carolinians should be thrilled that one of our state’s teachers is in the running for this year’s national title.
    “Especially in a year when we know that teachers everywhere are going the extra mile for students,” Truitt said, “the news that Maureen has been selected for this high honor only highlights the tremendous contributions from teachers across North Carolina. Maureen’s students are fortunate to have a teacher who is so passionate about their learning and success.”
    Eric Davis, chairman of the State Board of Education, said that as an advisor to the board, Maureen has shown herself to be a strong and persuasive leader.
    “In just a few short months as a Board advisor, Maureen has become a highly effective spokesperson for her fellow teachers and a powerful advocate for students,” Davis said. “She’s not afraid to share her perspective, to address challenging issues, and to speak with courage and conviction.”
    “On behalf of my State Board colleagues, we extend our heartfelt congratulations and appreciation for demonstrating the best in teacher leadership in North Carolina.”
    “I am extremely proud of Mrs. Stover for being named a National Teacher of the Year finalist; however, I’m not surprised,” said CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. “She represents the very best in public education. Her out-of-the-box approach to teaching grabs the attention of her students and provides them with meaningful learning experiences that they will remember for a lifetime. Beyond her great strides in the classroom, she often lends support and guidance to other educators throughout the district. With the selection of Mrs. Stover as a National Teacher of the Year finalist, the entire nation will soon discover what we already know – she is the embodiment of an effective, student-focused educator who fiercely advocates for all children.”
    With an undergraduate degree in biology from the United States Air Force Academy, Stover has gone on to earn two master’s degrees in education, one in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on STEM education from Adams State University in Colorado and another last year in secondary science education from Western Governors University in North Carolina.
    “Mrs. Stover is a tremendous educator and this is a well-deserved honor,” said Maria Ford, principal of Cumberland International Early College High School. “Mrs. Stover does not miss a beat when issues arise both at the school and in the district. When posed with a problem or situation, she comes with a proposed solution, instead of a complaint. She knows that good leaders provide guidance in problem solving and seeks to ensure that all stakeholders are involved. She is a go-getter and not a ‘sit-behind-the-desk’ person. If we all exhibited the enthusiasm, risk-taking ability, and willingness to go the ‘extra mile,’ like Mrs. Stover does each day, then education would reach phenomenal levels in all aspects.
    She knows that many of her students may opt for careers unrelated to science, but she still wants them to be able to lead and make informed decisions as adults in a world where they’ll interact with science every day for their entire lives.
    “I want to ensure that my students are prepared to talk about science, to read about science, to understand science, and to make decisions based on science,” Stover said. “It will be important for each of my students to develop the ability to apply their science knowledge to a variety of situations, from understanding a doctor’s diagnosis to determining the environmental impact of a purchase as simple as a one-time-use water bottle.”
    She uses a variety of approaches to teach her students, from reading activities to videos to direct instruction and teacher presentations to podcasts and hands-on learning. She evaluates students with non-traditional performance assessments keyed to students’ preferred learning styles. For one unit, she said, students worked in pairs to write a song or a poem to demonstrate their understanding of the material. One student played her ukulele; another played her flute.
    “Because students had an opportunity to show their knowledge by developing their own project,” Stover said, “they took ownership of the assignment and were excited to demonstrate their knowledge of the concept.”
    Stover’s Teacher of the Year application is available here.
    Each year, states, the District of Columbia, U.S. extra-state territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity select exemplary educators to serve as State Teachers of the Year. The 2021 cohort includes 56 educators. From that group, the National Teacher of the Year selection committee, which includes representatives from 16 education organizations, selects four finalists based on written applications.
    The other three finalists, all Teachers of the Year in their respective states or jurisdictions this year, are John Arthur, a sixth-grade teacher in Utah, Alejandro Diasgranados, who teaches fourth and fifth grade English and social studies in the District of Columbia, and Juliana Urtubey, an elementary special education teacher in Nevada.
    The finalists announced today will complete virtual interviews with the National Teacher of the Year Program’s selection committee, and the 2021 National Teacher of the Year will be announced later this spring. The 2021 National Teacher of the Year will spend the next year serving as an ambassador for education and an advocate for all teachers and students.
    “America’s educators have tackled the unprecedented challenges of teaching during the coronavirus pandemic with creative problem-solving, flexibility, and unwavering dedication to their students. Throughout, they have also worked to confront social and racial injustice and recognize the need for equitable educational opportunities for all students,” the selection committee said. “The finalists stand out as models of this creativity and dedication, committed to serving their students and communities with expertise and empathy. Any one of them would do an outstanding job as National Teacher of the Year.”