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The Brunswick County Teacher of the Year’s year would normally be winding down to the final weeks by the end of March.
But in the past year Teacher of the Year has changed from honoree to advocate, which will extend her reign.
Laura Hunter, a South Brunswick High School history teacher selected as Teacher of the Year by the Brunswick County Association of Educators last April, has built the role into the Teachers’ Voice in the school system.
“Traditionally, I’m not sure the role of the Teacher of the Year was defined. I’m not sure the Teacher of the Year found their niche,” Hunter said.
Hunter said she was interested in being included in decisions directing education policy and what happens in the classroom.
“I’m concerned (teachers’) voices have been faint,” she said.
In her year as Teacher of the Year, Hunter began writing a column called Teacher’s Turn, working with superintendent Edward Pruden and re-established the Teachers’ Advisory Council, which includes a representative from each of the county’s 19 schools.
“It had fallen by the wayside,” Hunter said.
Hunter saw the need for the advisory council so teachers can speak with one voice, to be heard better “in large amount of chatter” that takes place in county and state education discussion.
She also lends her voice to education conversations by speaking any time and every time she’s asked.
Hunter said the Teacher of the Year selection process is being revised this year, which will lead to the new selection being made in the fall.
While she remains in the role, she is working with the Teacher’s Advisory Council so the next teacher of the year can step in and continue to be a voice in education discussions in the county.
“I hope the next teacher of the year feels empowered enough to continue the work,” Hunter said.
They will also have incentive after the Brunswick board of education approved a $2,000 stipend in February to go to the teacher of the year.
“The stipend is encouraging and shows a great deal of recognition that the Teacher of the Year goes beyond a winner in a beauty pageant,” Hunter said.
“It’s a critical role to bring parties to the table. I hope it encourages the teachers of the year that follow after me to be active players in the conversation.”
Hunter said she works daily with incredible professionals and expects each teacher of the year selection will bring in better ideas to increase teachers’ involvement in education decisions.
But she hopes they will embrace and continue a project she collaborated on in fall 2012.
The county held its first Education Engagement project. Throughout the week of Nov. 11-17, community leaders shadowed teachers in all levels of Brunswick County Schools.
The goal was to bring community leaders into the schools for a day to see what really happens in a 21st century classroom.
“We looked at what education looks like in schools now rather than how it was done in their time in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s,” Hunter said.
“My intention, and Jessica’s (Swencki, director of quality assurance and community engagement) is to make it an annual event,” Hunter said.
“We got a positive response from community leaders in and out of our area,” Hunter said.
Hunter would like to see the project continue in Brunswick County and catch on in school systems in surrounding counties and eventually throughout the state.
“The only way to have a conversation about public schools is to invite people in,” Hunter said.
Hunter said teachers are seen by the community to have a big voice in education policy, but that isn’t true.
That is why she took the Teacher of the Year recognition as an opportunity to push for more teacher activity in the school system.
“We’ve opened a critical dialogue with people who make education decisions,” Hunter said.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.