CHCCS Teacher of the Year had to overcome doubts

jalexander@newsobserver.comJune 17, 2014 

Northside Elementary kindergarten teacher Kimberly Fearrington says she had to prove to some parents that she could teach their children.

JONATHAN ALEXANDER — jalexander@newsobserver.com

  • Other honorees

    Kim Fearrington of Northside Elementary received a $1,000 check from Harrington Bank for being named the CHCCS District Teacher of the Year.

    Finalists teachers Alicia Adcock of Phoenix Academy High School and Mary Beth Braker of Carrboro High School each received a $500 check from Harrington Bank.

    Other Teachers of the Year were recognized with $100 checks from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation. They are: Emily Kochy, Carrboro Elementary; Kristin Ducanis, Ephesus Elementary; Dawn McClendon, Estes Hills Elementary; Ann Harrawood, FPG Elementary; Sheryl Finegan, Glenwood Elementary; Mike Sharp, McDougle Elementary; Amanda Woodroffe, Morris Grove Elementary; Ashley Laver, Rashkis Elementary; Susan Kenny, Scroggs Elementary; Molly McLean, Seawell Elementary; Megan Taber, Culbreth Middle School; Steven Simmons, McDougle Middle School; Jennifer Marquis, Phillips Middle School; Regina Baratta, Smith Middle School; Jennifer Ballew, Chapel Hill High School; and Keith Gerdes, East Chapel Hill High School.

— Northside kindergarten teacher Kim Fearrington says her first few years in the profession were tough, especially being a young black teacher.

Fearrington said some parents questioned her credentials and wondered if she was certified, an issue the district has said some minority teachers have expressed concerns about.

So she worked harder to prove them wrong.

That hard work paid off as the now 20-year veteran was named the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools’ 2014 teacher of the year.

“I feel so very honored,” said Fearrington, whose mother and grandmother attended the May 30 awards banquet to support her. “It’s absolutely amazing. I was shaking the whole time. I was up on stage with flowers in my hand (shaking).

“When they called my name I kind of blacked out for a second. I heard the audience applauding, but I was just gone for a moment.”

Northside principal Cheryl Carnahan describes Fearrington as a motivator and a teacher who builds strong relationships, is supportive, collaborative and knows what she’s doing.

“She puts the love into school, and she’s highly structured and organized,” Carnahan said. “The children know she loves learning and that comes across, so they love learning. ... Right from the beginning they know she is going to be there to support them and help them achieve whatever they need to achieve.

Parents helping out in her classroom agree.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a more energetic and loving teacher,” said Rebecca Essinger-Bosworth, a parent of a kindergartener in Fearrington’s class. “I appreciate that she has a sensitivity to all types of learners.”

Questioning her abilities

“Can you do this?”

“How are you meeting my child’s needs”’

‘Where did you get your degree?”

The questions Fearrington used to get from some parents made her feel like they did not have confidence in her ability because of her appearance.

“It was almost like ... I’m walking around like I’m not competent,” Fearrington said. “So I feel like I worked extra hard to show that I have the ability to educate all children, and it’s a constant struggle.”

In her early years at Carrboro, a father of a second grader, didn’t believe she had the ability to teach his son. So Fearrington said she promised that his son would show improvement in all areas of learning.

The second grade student improved and father admitted he had never exposed his son to things Fearrington taught him. She said he apologized to her the next year and the experience has continued to motivate her to be the best she can.

Falling in love with teaching

Fearrington, a graduate of N.C. Central University, said she fell in love with teaching at college. She started out as a computer science student but after a year, she decided she didn’t like it. Some friends recommended she try education.

This is Fearrington’s first year at Northside, which opened last fall. She wanted to come to Northside because she grew up in the community. Her mother and grandmother attended the first Northside school before it was knocked down.

She spent her first 19 years at Carrboro Elementary, where she taught all grades before settling on kindergarten the last four years.

“I love the kids,” Fearrington said. “I genuinely love to see them grow. I love to see what impact I can have one child. I do believe I touch every child and even if I don’t see it this year, I do feel like within two years I can see this child and they have flourished.”

“Seeing kids after several years once they leave the elementary school setting and then come back to see how they’ve grown and matured, I think that’s pretty rewarding,” she said. “To get invitations in the mail around this time of the year for students’ graduations, even invitations to weddings, is pretty rewarding.”

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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